First Ave 1982 Revisited

Recently Mace2theO commented that this bootleg from 1982 was the equivalent to his first girlfriend. We all have a similar first girlfriend experience – she may have had braces and carried some puppy fat, but she will always be special by the fact she was the first and painted in nostalgic hues forever more because of this. It was our first proper relationship, and doomed to a crushing teenage ending, but always conjures up warm memories that do not fade as time passes.

I’m sorry Mace2theO, but  in this case your first girlfriend got around a bit. Not only was she your first girlfriend, she was my first girlfriend too. Mace2theO acquired this concert on cassette (and all the nostalgic currency that that carries), while for me I found this bootleg on CD hidden away at the back of the record store. It was far from perfect in sound quality but I can assure you that when I took a listen it shook me to my core, and the fact that 35 years on I am blogging about Prince bootlegs demonstrates how much of an influence it had over the rest of my life. Like that first girlfriend, it was a formative experience. I didn’t quite know what I was doing and I have had better relationships since, but retains a special place in my heart.

A couple of weeks ago the soundboard recording of this show became widely available. It’s not always comfortable when we meet ex-girlfriends later in life, a messy divorce behind them, a couple of kids under their arm, and the first signs of a drinking problem hiding behind their forced smile, but in this case my first girlfriend has grown up into somebody I want to spend a lot of time with. The roughness of the audience recording is gone, replaced with a shiny soundboard, all slender legs, short skirts and long luxurious hair. Oh yes, my first girlfriend is now the hottest chick on the block. She is has grown up in every way, while retaining all the charms that I first fell in love with all those years ago. I may have talked about this first girlfriend before, but now she is in full bloom and stirring up those old feelings in me. It’s not very often that I spend time with ex-girlfriends, but in this case I am going to roll back the clock and wine and dine this girl one more time.

So with my first bootleg love rekindled, lets douse ourselves in cheap cologne, grease up the hair, and head straight to the heart of 1982.

(all photos by Mike Reiter)

8th March 1982, First Avenue, Minneapolis

There is a heat between the thighs from the opening minute, a few quick words by Prince and then a rage of guitar pulled down by Dez. With a punk rock assault Prince and the band hang it all out in these first minutes with both power and panache. In a frenzy of guitar scuzz “Bambi” storms into the room. It’s a wild eyed performance that bounces of the walls in a maelstrom of fuzzed up guitar and shrieked lyrics, capturing the listeners attention from the start. It is much cleaner than the previous audience recording, and the soundboard brings the musicianship to the the fore while retaining the fierce sound of the more familiar recording. That first girlfriend has cleaned up her defiant punk-rock hair style, but still has a fiery intent in her eyes that hints at an underlying violence that could bubble over at any second.

“All The Critics Love U In New York” is the most Princely sui genius song of the evening, and clearly maps out the territory that he will roam in the next few years. It wears its uniqueness proudly, face melting guitar work grafted to the undeniable beat that appeals to both my gut and my feet. I am never quite sure if I should be dancing or punching the air, the music insisting that I move my body in any way possible as Prince gives us perhaps the greatest performance of this song ever recorded. The keyboard solo gains on this pristine recording, Fink’s solo standing out among the more forceful blazing guitar and holding his own calm centre at the eye of the storm. For a minute we are in another world, before the hurricane of guitar solos return and swallow up the all the sound.

There is a glimpse of the first girlfriend I used to know in the opening of “When You Were Mine,” both the title and the sound taking me back to youthful summers that were equally long and lost. It is easy to project these feelings back on a song that has been with us so long, but even at this show it has a nostalgic feel – although it was only recorded just two years previous. This is the most comfortable song of the concert, and captures the exact feelings that I first had when I heard it all those years ago.

There is a world of difference between the audience recording and this soundboard recording when it comes to “Sexy Dancer.” A far more nuanced performance emerges on this recording, and whereas before it was strident and bold, here it becomes much more of a sassy walk rather than a march into battle. Both the bass and the keyboard via for attention, each adding to a show that I am already eminently familiar with. While the bass remains holding the song together, Dr Fink spins off into an intergalactic sound with his keyboards, making me draw a sharp breath in the thrill of it all. It is Dez who gets to put an end to these flights of fancy, his solo serving as an exclamation mark on all that has come before.

Things slow, sex and lust temporarily forgotten as Prince dips into a song of love and yearning with “Still Waiting.” Prince is on lead vocals, but it is Sue Ann Carwell who is the star attraction with her contribution. At almost ten minutes long there is plenty of time for the candles of love to flicker and flame, and musically one can hear the lights being turned down as the song slows to a velvety and warm breakdown. In this circumstance it is grating to hear Prince saying “I got cause to celebrate, because my girlfriend died” but as Brown Marks bass rises up from this crushed velvet sea all is forgiven, and I am again transported away on the winds of Sue Ann Carwell’s voice.

The recording slaps me in the face and snaps me out of this reverie with a furious “Head.” On the previous recording it was nasty and slutty, on this recording it is far more sexy and erotic. While the audience recording sounded like a blowjob in the Walmart carpark, this one speaks in the language of fellatio and sex on the hood of a Porsche at a Beverly Hills party. The outcome is still the same, but it doesn’t threaten to be as dangerous, and despite some superlative bass work I am comfortable that when it is all over I won’t be visiting the clinic in the morning.

If there is a moment that demonstrates how much better this new recording is, it is the final minute of the “Head” when we can hear Prince preparing the band for “Sexuality.” We have heard his yell into the microphone before, but this time we can hear him say it a couple of times earlier to the audience. It’s not a big thing, but it does show just how good the sound is. “Sexuality” is relatively short, most of the song is given over to the audience sing-a-long that dominates. It does lose some of it’s impact on this soundboard recording, the audience recording obviously doing a far better job of capturing this moment with the audience. This is crying out for someone to combine the two recordings in a matrix mix that would better give us that electrifying live sound that makes this recording so vital.

Prince’s brief speech introducing The Time has been often discussed, and for good reason. His easy banter with Morris is refreshing, and its hilarious to hear him and Morris go back and forth, trading lines and barbs that belie the darker waters that swirl just under the surface. “Dance To The Beat” maintains this veneer of lightheartedness, and provides a pop twist to a show that has been thus far guitar heavy and drenched in intensity. There is a lift in the atmosphere and the recording shines bright for these minutes.

Prince continues to fire broadsides at the band between songs, this time with the comment “I didn’t like that, play something you know how to play.” The response from The Time is a taunt version of “The Stick” that would satisfy the most demanding of audiences. As much as I like The Time and this song, it does feel as if they have gate-crashed the date, and there is an awkward third wheel experience to hearing them on the bootleg. The real draw card though isn’t the music itself though, rather their dynamic tension with Prince, a tension that fuels his music and will provide some of his most dramatic work in the following years.

“Partyup” fuses these two elements together in a climatic finish that delivers all it promises. The opening talk between Prince and Morris sets the scene, the back and forth continues between them continues as Morris takes his place at the drum kit for this final stomp. Prince and his guitar lead from the front, but most fans will be focused on Morris and his drumming. He lives up to expectations, and the foreplay of the opening talk is forgotten as the the song becomes further arousing. Morris’s drum solo almost brings us to orgasm, but Prince pulls him back just in time with some great bass work from Brown Mark. The final climax comes with an inflamed guitar solo from Prince,but as with the audience recording there is coitus interruptus as the tape fades out, the rest of solo never realized and leaving us to only wonder what might  have been.

I have loved this concert for as long I can remember. I have grown older, but it has remained forever young, even with the imperfections of the long circulating audience recording. With this soundboard recording we have a chance to revisit our youth, and a chance to reconnect with that elusive first girlfriend. I have mixed feelings as I know that the first girlfriend is forever gone and never again will I listen to the audience recording. This new recording has created new memories and sparked a new love. It is time to move on and file the audience recording in my box of faded photos, yellowed love letters and yesterdays glories. I am firmly looking forward as with this soundboard recording I feel reinvigorated, my love burning with a new intensity. I have made up my mind, this is the recording that I want to spend the rest of my life with.

-Hamish

Bonus material:

Mace2theO messaged me this quickfire review when I told him I was covering this bootleg. It’s not written with public consumption in mind, but he has agreed that I could share it with you. I am in full agreement with everything he has written here, and he is far more succinct than me!

Re 82 – reasons the show is important to me, rediscovered with the SBDs

The First Ave show came the night after the main show at the Met Centre so going back to a small club, it has the feel of an aftershow. It is the first Revolution in all its glory, with Dez as a proper Keith Richards lead as the Black Rolling Stones, all pre-Purple Rain. Starting with a raw punk version of Bambi, it then goes into a monster version of All the Critics. While “Let ’em out of his cage” is great, my favourite is before Doc’s solo when Prince and Dez start soloing and Prince yell’s “Wait a minute, Dez” before ripping off a monster solo.

Sometimes audiences make the boot and I had been living with crowd singing at the end of Sexuality for so many years, it took me a minute to adjust to the soundboard. Same with All The Critics – without that kickdrum in your face, the SBD didn’t feel the power of the earlier version…although it sounds much better.

Most important – this is really the closest we will ever get the inspiration for the Purple Rain battle. Before all the controlling issues that came along in 83-84, you can feel the real affection between Morris and Prince (“We used to be friends”) – as trivia, it has the only time in bootleg history where someone gives Prince shit “You wanna borrow my comb?” Also history, as only time live Prince with Morris on drums.

I have fallen in love with my first girlfriend all over again – not looking forward to telling the wife

Pittsburgh, 20 November 1981

A funny thing happened on the way here tonight……

I had every intention of taking in another concert from Austria, as I have done the last couple of weeks, but when I turned on the computer this morning I was surprised to find a soundboard recording from 1981 waiting in my inbox. There is several things you should know about me at this point:
1. I love concerts from the Controversy tour
2. Especially soundboard recordings
3. I am not one to be patient and wait.

So although I know this a premature leak with a complete recording and art work to come, I can’t help myself. All thoughts of the Austria concert are gone, and here I am with this 1981 soundboard recording blasting in my ears already. Oh the joy.

There is much more to it than being a simple soundboard recording. It is the first concert of the Controversy tour, and a mere four weeks after Prince opened for the Rolling Stones (we all know how well that went). So when we look at it in a historical context it becomes far more interesting than it might at first appear. With the typical Controversy setlist, and one of Prince’s more rock orientated bands, this is one show where I know exactly what to expect, and quite frankly I can’t wait!

20th November 1981, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Part of the trade-off of not waiting for the full release is that we don’t get to experience “The Second Coming” in way of an introduction.  Any thoughts of this are tossed aside as the band burst out of the speakers with “Sexuality.” My first thoughts are”My God, is this a 36 year old recording.” It is so clear and fresh, I could swear I was onstage with the band. It doesn’t have the ragged glory of some of the other soundboards of the tour, Prince and the band are calm and measured at this stage, and the guitar especially sounds as if it is in the studio and someone has simply turned it up in the mix. We have several other soundboards from this tour already in circulation, and from the first song I can already say that this is perhaps the best sounding. With Prince right in my ear it is a wild ride and a spectacular start to the recording.

 

The phrase la petite mort bursts into reality with “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” With guitar in hand Prince is a gentle lover, and as he reaches orgasmic heights he remains focused on the others in the room, providing pleasure without over stepping into the realm of over indulgence and self pleasure. It may be a guitar solo, but the moment belongs to all, and even if six minutes is disappointing by his standards (especially compared to some unhinged renditions later in the tour) it is still a satisfying experience that leaves me feeling like a post-coital cigarette.

“Jack U Off” is the complete opposite. Not only is it a song about onanism, but Prince performs it in a manner than complements the material. It is an exercise in oneism, everything is about Prince as he pushes himself forward. His vocals and guitar fill the air, and although I know his tongue is placed firmly in cheek, it is just too much for me. I seek redemption in his final guitar solo, and I find it both in the quality of his playing and the quality of the recording.

On other recordings, “When You Were Mine” leaves me giddy with it’s teenage energy and spunk. In this case it is the recording that shines brightest, the out of control guitar lines reined in and Prince’s pristine vocals sitting at the centre of the recording. It doesn’t lessen the moment at all, and I am just as enraptured by this version as I am by any other on the tour.

The same can be said of the proceeding “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” All instruments are secondary to the vocals of Prince. That’s not by design, merely that the recording is so clean that Prince sounds much more in the moment. With the pristine recording one can clearly hear the precision of his delivery, and indeed of all the performers on stage. It is the last minute where the guitar raises its head from its slumber, and it is with the guitar’s slippery funk that the band segues into the inevitable “Head”

There are longer versions and there are dirtier versions, but the rendition of “Head” on this recording is a perfect fit with all that has come before. With a performance so tight that it is almost suffocating, Prince and the band leave no room for error and sound  faultless and they turn the normally greasy funk of “Head” into something creamy. This can be heard nowhere more so than the final minutes as the guitar again lights up the darkness. It is neither heavy or forceful, but it takes the song apart with a scalpel like precise that cuts but does not tear the song apart.

The recording has brightened every song heard so far, yet “Annie Christian” seems to suffer in this case. It sounds strangely neutered throughout, the anger of the band and lyrics betrayed by the gentleness and crispness of the recording. There is some rage to be heard, especially Prince’s line about John Lennon being shot (only 11 months previous at this time), but it never becomes threatening or dangerous.

Later in the tour “Dirty Mind” will become an epic centre piece. First night of the tour and here we have a standard rendition that gives no hint at what will come later. The payoff of this neat package of a performance is we can hear Lisa in all her glory as she sings with Prince. Its easy to forget all else as she appears on the recording, and even though Prince turns up he energy later in the song, it is the vocals of Lisa that linger longest once the song has finished.

“Do Me, Baby” has a beauty that is infused into the heart. It may be a song of lust, but it retains it’s dignity through the reverential vocal delivery of Prince. Paired with music that is equally seductive, the song reaches out from the speakers, no longer just a song but instead taking on a life of its on and becoming an emotional experience. I have gushed over this song repeatedly in this blog, but here it is in it’s infancy and already one can hear that Prince has written his first great seduction ballad. Others may come in future, but this will always remain the first.

There is snap, crackle, and pop to the bass line of “Let’s Work” the makes my heart skip a beat. Again, I can’t help but compare it to other renditions on tour. It is not as forceful or driven as some later concerts, but it does retain it’s groove and easy flow. Prince hasn’t turned it into a stomping party song just yet, but we can hear all the key components and they have never sounded as clear as they are here.

The following “Controversy” is of similar ilk. The song sounds great, there is no  denying, but it lacks the energy and impulsiveness that is heard later. There is still plenty to enjoy, the dry guitar line by Prince has me salivating as it wraps me up in its funk. Brown Mark carries a lot of the load through the song, and for me it is just as enjoyable to listen to his contribution as anything else.

I am surprised to hear the guitar so low in the mix for “Uptown.” The band play with plenty of passion though, and although Prince remains the epicenter of all that happening on stage, this is the song where it most feels like a complete band performance. Like everything else on this recording, it is faultless. Everything comes together in a holistic performance, and the only wiry moment that stands out to me is the final guitar solo that appears both spontaneous and fueled by a deeper emotion.

“Party Up” takes “Uptown” and turns it up to 11. At this point the band throw caution to the wind, and for the first time it feels as if they are playing with an inner freedom that seeps through the music. With choppy guitar lines, keyboards dropping in unexpectedly, and some wild sounding yelps from Prince, this is a song I can instantly relate to as it seems to capture the inner workings of my mind.  The moment that sums up Prince’s performance most is as he tells the band to quieten as the crowd can’t hear themselves. He draws the room in at this moment and from here on in it is about performers and the crowd together in the spirit of the song.  It’s not a mind crushing finale, but it is perfect for this recording, and as the final notes recede I sit back, still trying to digest this wonderful recording.

There will never be another first time. This was my first time to hear this concert, and as such I will always remember this day. It was a day when I heard one of the best soundboards to appear in recent times, a recording that takes in another significant concert in Princes career as he turns his back on the Rolling Stones debacle and begins his Controversy tour.  You may think I have been over the top with my praise for this recording, but it is another keystone bootleg in the discography, and one that you need to hear. No controversy about this one, go out and get it.

Next week normal service resumes,
until then, take care,
-Hamish

San Francisco 1982

There have been two new releases recently and both of them are covering the same show. It always gives me a warm feeling when new soundboards surface, and this week has been a very good week for me. I have not heard the Eye records release, it is more complete than the 4DF release, but I have to say the 4DF release has a great cover, even if the show itself is not complete. I was going to wait for the Eye records release before I blogged about it, but to be honest patience is not one of my virtues, so I am going to give the 4DF release a listen in meantime. The show itself is not new to me, I have heard an audience recording, but nothing can beat that pristine sound of a soundboard recording like we have here. I am looking forward to a heavy dose of nostalgia and plenty of energy from this show. It’s a beautiful summers evening here, all the doors and windows are open, a cold drink in my hand, and the stereo cranked up, I am definitely in the right mood for this one.

14 February 1982, San Francisco Auditorium

This particular recording is missing the opening with The Second Coming, but that doesn’t concern me too much as we get right down to it from the start. The set lists from the Controversy tour don’t vary too much, so there aren’t any surprises when the first song is Uptown. I was wondering if I would feel jaded listening to a recording from a tour I know so well, but any reservations are well and truly laid to rest when that glorious clean soundboard recording is heard.  The sound leaps out of the speakers, and Princes youthful enthusiasm is evident for all to hear. Uptown sounds great, and one of the things that strikes me most is the bass sound. It’s not deep and heavy, but it has a fantastic popping sound to it, and the recording captures it perfectly. I like that the sound is much more even on this recording, and no one instrument dominates as you often hear on audience recordings.

Prince Controversy 2

After a short Uptown Prince calls “Are you ready” in his full sounding, deeper speaking voice and we spin off into Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. The guitars seesaw behind him, and again I am struck by the balance of the recording, they are well behind his voice, and never too loud. I must say, Prince is sounding on top of his game, and his voice is playful and strong. As the guitars start their soloing there is some excellent bass pops that the recording picks up, and I am thankful I can hear this as it was meant to be heard. Prince calls “John!” right before the second section of the solos, I don’t know who it is directed at, or what it is about, but after listening to hundreds of bootlegs like this I sometimes find myself wondering about little moments like this. The song ends with a coda from Prince, and for me this is the real highlight. It’s not a howling guitar solo, just some fun licks on his guitar for a minute, but it adds to the sense of youth and playfulness.

When You Were Mine elicits no surprise from me, and again I rejoice in the quality of the recording, especially when I hear Prince’s vocals and every inflection in his voice. He sings, he speaks, he pouts, he emotes, and I can feel the whole performance through the recording. There is more playfulness near end of the song as Prince plays guitar runs and speaks during the breakdown. He draws it out, and I almost find myself screaming along with the ladies in the crowd. His voice is teasing and fun, and he backs it with guitar playing that sounds similar in nature. We are three songs in, and already I have decided that this is my ‘go to’ recording for the Controversy tour.

Prince Controversy

This thought continues as I Wanna Be Your Lover begins, it sparkles and shines, and it too has a youthfulness to it. The vocals of Prince and Lisa are bold and loud, the whole song sounding very strong throughout. I appreciate it for what it is, but being the fan I am, I am already anticipating the song that will follow.

Head is the centre piece of the concert, it runs for 13 minutes, and is everything you could possibly wish for.  The guitar is slippery, the keyboards heaving, and the bass and vocals are both dirty sounding. Like everything else on this recording, the balance is perfect, and there is many small details for me to enjoy as I listen close. I love the vocals of Lisa, as well as Prince. The energy of the show is very apparent, and as I said earlier, it really does jump out of the speakers at me. I don’t get the nostalgic feeling at all, it still sounds fresh and new to me, and I feel younger just for listening to it. I decide not to bother writing anything at all as the singing stops and the bass and guitar take over, it’s all too good and I want to wallow in the sound of it. Needless to say, it doesn’t disappoint at all.

The keyboards of Annie Christian gain a lot on this soundboard recording, they sound brighter and louder, while the guitar is more in the background. Prince’s vocal performance is energetic and the song itself gathers a lot of momentum as it goes, and there is a great release when Prince starts his guitar break. It’s only the last minute of the song when the guitar is more to the front than the keyboards, and I am enjoying the mix of this recording just as much as the performance itself.

I wonder how Dirty Mind is going to go, on some other Controversy shows it is the highlight for me, here we have had many highlights already and I wonder how it will compete. It gets off to a good start with a slightly longer intro, and Prince sounding more relaxed as he begins to sing. I don’t have to tell you, it’s energetic and lives up to my expectations. Prince’s “Somebody say yeah” shouts add a sense of urgency and energy to it all, and I really get a kick out of it when Prince asks “Does the groove feel alright?” I like that I can clearly hear Bobby Z play on this, and indeed I can everyone very well, it gives me a lot of new things to listen for.

It’s game over as Do Me Baby begins, seriously I am just about to turn off the lights and start some ‘night manoeuvres’ as it plays. It doesn’t have a long intro, but Princes vocals more than make up for it. It’s easy to forget that he is playing for 8000 people at the show, his vocals are dripping with lust and emotion, and the crowd is feeling it too as he stops and lets them sing a few lines for themselves. I would love to see this performance as well as hear it. Prince ad-libs mid-song, using his “Do you believe in love at first sight, do you believe in making love on the first night” -lines that I normally associate with Dirty Mind. The song runs for nigh on eight minutes, and I have already mentally filed it as a song I must revisit again soon.
Prince Controversy 1Controversy lacks the intensity of the previous half hour. The song is tight so I can’t fault it in any way, however it does feel like a step down from what we have just heard. I think it’s because I can’t hear the guitar as strongly as I like, and it’s very much a keyboard driven affair. I do hear the funky guitar later, and its sharpness adds some shape that I was missing earlier. It gets even better for me at the five minute mark when the guitars come right to the fore. Prince still sounds like he’s having a great time with his vocals, and the song ends on a high.

The 4DF recording ends with Let’s Work. Prince works the crowd, and there is lots of interaction between Prince and the band, as well as the audience. It’s a difficult song to sit and listen to, I feel music just as much as I hear it, and when I listen to this I have a strong urge to get up and dance. The bass and drum combination is tight as you might expect, and the wonderful thing is you can hear their interaction and togetherness clearly on this recording. There is a long breakdown in particular where they hold the groove down, and there is plenty of time to enjoy their talents. Listening to it here you can also hear how much of a horn line the keyboards are playing, it’s very easy to imagine those lines as horns playing, and you can see Prince is making the most of what he has available to him in terms of instruments and personnel.

Prince Controversy 4

My very first bootleg was a recording from the Controversy tour, and it’s still a favourite to this day. I never thought I would hear another show from that period that filled me with the same sense of enjoyment and energy, but this recording proved me wrong. This is an outstanding recording, the songs may not be new to my ears, but the quality of the show is very high, and a lot of things gain an extra dimension when I listen to them in soundboard quality. I have heard many shows, and now when I listen to bootlegs I find it’s the little things I notice and enjoy most, and having a show in this quality there is many little things that I pick up and enjoy. 33 years after the fact this recording is just as exciting as anything I heard when I was a teenager. I am hoping the full show on Eye records is every bit as good as what we have here.

Thanks for reading
-Hamish

 

 

 

 

Madrid, 1990

The fact that this is called the Nude tour, and not titled after any particular album, says something about what to expect from shows of this era. His album at the time, Batman, was a year previous and the Graffiti Bridge album wasn’t  released until late in the tour. It’s a ‘greatest hits’ show, with just three Batman songs appearing in the set list. In recent years this has become common for Prince, but at this time, 1990, it was a first for him and for us as the listener. Today I am listening to a good quality soundboard show from Madrid in 1990. Although I am not a big fan of the set list, the recording is a very high standard, and there is a few interesting arrangements for me to enjoy.

July 22, 1990 Madrid

The show opens with the DAT intro. Several songs and intros are spliced together, it sounds alright, but it doesn’t get my blood flowing like perhaps you would expect it to. There is spoken excerpts of Party Up, Controversy, 1999, lets go Crazy, Around The World In A Day, and a few others, but nothing we haven’t heard before.

However things pick up once the music begins proper. The Future sounds excellent, and much stronger than on the album. The low end in is very solid, and Princes vocals are muscular and well suited for the lyrical theme. I must comment on the quality of this recording, its top shelf. The band and music sound great, and there is just enough crowd noise to enhance the live feel to it. The Future is my favorite from the Batman album, and I feel many people overlook it. But like I said before, live it is excellent. There are some very nice rolls on the tom toms at the end, before we roll into 1999.

For me, 1999 is always a little hit or miss live. Sometimes it comes off great and other times I just don’t feel it. Luckily this recording is one where it comes off great. The beat is really driving, and the band vocals are all very strong- no one is holding back anything. It is a fine choice for this early in the gig and along with The Future it very much puts people in the dancing mood- me included! There are no horns in the band, so it has that nice electric feel that I enjoy.

Without skipping a beat the band starts Housequake. It’s always played well, and here is no exception. As I said in the previous song, there is no horn section in the band, so it’s the bold keyboard stabs that fill in. I am not sure if Prince is dancing or not, I can only assume he is, but his singing is still very tight, there is not a loose moment in the song at all. There is some calls and shout-outs for the Game Boyz, I don’t know what they are doing, but at this point I am glad I am listening and not watching this gig. Prince sings Sexy Dancer for a time over the beat, and it’s surprising how well it all fits.

Prince nude 1

Kiss is played very quickly. The guitar is almost none existent, and it’s the keys that do most of the work in the song. I tried hard to enjoy this arrangement, but I just couldn’t get there.Princes’ singing is good, the band is tight, but this one just didn’t seem to have any soul. If I had to sum it up in one word it would be sterile. One redeeming feature for me was the play out section when Rosie Gaines sings Lets Jam It. She has one of those voices that demands to be heard, and this is our first taste of her singing tonight, and it sounds great.

There is no let up at all as the heavy organ intro to Purple Rain begins. It’s a nice change to the guitar intro that we were familiar with previously. The intro doesn’t last too long, Prince starts on the verses pretty quickly. Did I say verses? Actually it’s just a verse, a chorus and then the guitar takes over. I find that the guitar solo loses a lot of its impact with the rest of the song cut short, there is no sense of rising to the climax, and it doesn’t have the triumphant release like when he plays the whole song. It’s a shame that this is usually the default version, and has been for many years. The solo is very fine, I can’t fault it technically, but it does feel a little passionless. The song ends with Prince singing “Live for Love”, obviously a lyrically idea that floated around for sometime before it became a song, before ending with one more reprise on the guitar.

Things perk up when Take Me With U begins. I will forever associate this song with the scene in the Purple Rain movie, and I always have a joyful feeling when I hear it. It’s not the type of Prince song I normally like, but in this case it gets a pass. The energy levels are very good, and the song hums along. Sadly it ends before I have chance to collect my thought on it.

The next song gets off to an upbeat swinging start as Prince asks the audience “Madrid, do you wanna hear the blues?” Now is when Rosie really comes into her own. Don’t Make Me Pay For His mistakes is a nice bluesy song that gives her plenty of opportunities to showcase her vocals. She dominants the first part of the song and makes it her own, before Prince takes over with some fine blues guitar. Nicely paced, and not too heavy or showy it’s another side of his playing that I really enjoyed. Of course, it’s also a good chance for Prince to break out If I Had A Harem. The sound of the two songs is very similar, and if not for the lyrics I wouldn’t have noticed a difference.

Prince nude

Alphabet Street starts very swiftly, and Prince races through the first verse before bringing it to a complete halt. After a long pause he again races through the next verse before pausing again. This time the crowds cheer is even louder, and with a shout of “Ok Ok!’ Prince resumes again. I love his rap in the middle of it, it’s hardly the sort of lyrics that would set the world on fire, but his delivery is a lot of fun. Even better is Rosie when she begins singing It Takes Two over the top of it. As you may guess, I am quite a fan of Rosie. Her voice is nice and full, and adds a lot of strength to the whole concert. After Rosie there is plenty of time for interplay between the drums and guitar, and instruments drop in and out seamlessly.

There is a change in tempo and mood when Prince takes to the piano and plays an instrumental version of The Question Of U, An honest Man, and Under The Cherry Moon. I had heard that Prince writes the majority of his music on piano, and hearing him play here I can fully believe it. It’s only very short here, but is a nice change from what we had in the first part of the show.

The heavy beat of The Question Of U, and the full band play for a more recognizable version of the song. A firm favorite for many, this is one song that has sounded great on every live recording I have heard. The beat is very strong here, but it doesn’t overwhelm the song, the guitar solo is very loud and more than compensates for the heavy beat. The guitar doesn’t get the final word however, there is some very good keyboard following it and as the beat continues there are several loud cheers from the crowd, so I am assuming Prince is doing some dancing. He then speaks for a short time, the normal pimp talk he usually comes out with, and then he sings Electric Man. I have heard him play it like this many times, and it’s something I like a lot. I would like to hear him play this without it being incorporated mid-song like this, quite what else he could do with it I guess we will never know. He doesn’t rush this section at all, and it stretches out to a decent eight minutes.

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“People call me rude, I wish we all were nude” serves as his introduction to Controversy. Sometimes this song is overworked, but here it is light and funky. He sings only the first few lines, and then over the same music sings the chorus of Do Me Baby. Somehow it works and he gets away with it. Rosie then starts singing it, and by the way have I mentioned how great she is? Prince also sings D.M.S.R and I feel slightly cheated I was hoping from the set list it might be a fuller version. I would have said the same for Do Me baby, but fortunately after a couple of minutes of Controversy he does pull it back and the band slip into Do Me Baby proper.

After a suitable long and beautiful introduction Prince begins to sing. Three quarters of the way through the show and he shows no shortness of breath, or fault in his vocals. It sounds just as good as it does on record. The vocal section is short, the bulk of the song is the introduction, but that’s no bad thing at all, the song stands out as the emotional high point of the evening.

Rosie is again to the fore as she sings an Aretha Franklin cover- Ain’t No Way. I don’t want to again write about how good she is, but when she is playing I just want to stop writing and just sit here and listen. Maybe she does over work some sections of the song, but overall it’s very good.

Finally we get another Batman song, and it’s Batdance. Is the band playing it? I can’t tell. There are a lot of samples on this, it would be easy to just roll a tape and let Prince sing on it. The drums sound live, so I am going to presume the band is playing along to some samples (or vice versa I should say) Batdance is an original sounding song, unlike almost anything else he has done. It does work live, but my only complaint would be the Game Boyz chanting over it at one stage, but it’s only very brief. By now it is apparent that the band is playing it, and they do a fantastic job of it.

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Partyman gets the long chanting intro that we have seen on the long version of the video. All hail to the new King, again I guess that on stage Prince is pretty much playing out like the video. The song is lively, and played as heard on record. I had to smile when I heard the line “Ladies and gentlemen, no pictures please”- not much has changed in the last 25 years! The first half of the song is sharp, but the second half the band move into second gear and things start getting exciting. There is a funky guitar running throughout, some rapid samples and some furious keyboard bursts playing horns. There is only one way to end the song, and that is of course with the maniacal Joker laugh.

I didn’t expect to like Doves Cry, but in fact it was great. The beat is always gong to sound fresh, and the band play a suitably stripped back version- something that doesn’t always happen. I like some aspects of live performances of Doves Cry, there is often some great funky guitar work going on, and this one is no exception. In fact I forget to listen to it as a whole, and the first time I found myself concentrating solely on the guitar. The bass comes on strong later in the song, and again it adds a lot to it. There are not many live arrangements of Doves Cry that I like, but this is definitely one of them. The song gets a very long play out, and there is plenty happening, this one will get plenty more listens, I’m sure.

There isn’t much to Baby I’m A Star. It’s just an excuse to have a long jam and turn the concert into a party. The first few verses quickly give out to a long groove over which everyone gets a chance to play their bit. Even the Game Boyz get a shout out and a chance to play some rhythmn. Normally I would love this, but there isn’t too much here that gets me excited, and I know its blaspheme but to be honest I find some parts of it boring and repetitive. Michael B however is always excellent, and is the best thing about this long play out. Rosie also is another highpoint, but I have already given her plenty of coverage here. This is a Prince Blog not a Rosie blog, so I will refrain from commenting on her again. I am doing the song an injustice here, it is a lot of fun, and it’s played for those at the gig rather than those of us sitting here at home. With that in mind I would say that if I had of been there I am sure I would of been dancing my ass off. However it is uneven and the low point is when Tony M delivers some verses mid song, despite the funkiness of the music his vocal delivery is like a lead weight to it. But then it’s all redeemed by a short burst of We Can Funk. It’s a shade lighter than I had heard before, and is more mournful than dark. A very nice smooth delivery of a classic. The song ends on this note, but after a brief “Don’t you wanna go home?” Prince kicks back into the groove. It’s only another minute before it all comes to an end.

I am still scratching my head about these gigs. I am not sure what to make of them. This one had some great songs, and some wonderful moments, but much like the final song, it was a little uneven. I did enjoy listening to it, but I would definitely skip some tracks if I could, unfortunately some of the things I would skip are buried mid-song. These shows are a turning point in Princes career, and it’s about now that I lost interest in his main concerts, and instead started listening to far more after shows. However the twists and turns in his career have me relistening to a lot of things, and seeing them in a new light as the years go on, and this one certainly stands up well to a relisten.

Until next time take care
Hamish

London 21 nights – September 12th

I really liked the 21 nights in London shows. They were aimed at the masses, yet the set lists were varied every night, and there was just enough there for more serious fans. This show from the 12th September 2007 is a favorite of mine. Again, it was a show I was lucky enough to attend, but after repeating listening’s on CD,and watching the DVD I find that it’s not just the thrill of being there, this is a very good show and worthy of repeated listening’s. As with the previous recording from the 21 night that I covered, I apologies in advance if I stray from purely the recording onto some more personal observations. For me this is a total package.

12 September 2007, O2 Arena, London

The hall of fame opening gets tiresome if you trawl your way through all the recordings from this run of concerts, but on the DVD I am watching I find it’s a nice inclusion. The familiar talking heads gushing about the genius of Prince is quite touching, and I find I enjoy it more now than I did at the time. I don’t have the urge to skip it, and it’s a fitting introduction to the show.

Prince 2007

Opening the show is 1999. It’s played exactly as is on the album, with the robotic voice beginning. It’s a fine choice to open with, and serves as a good ‘on your feet’ type number. Prices vocals sound thin on the recording, where Shelby J sounds big and bold. My ears do adjust to the sound, and it’s not too bad. This is not a sound board recording, but for an audience recording it’s not too bad at all. The keyboards do carry the bulk of the song, I certainly hear them a lot better than any other instrument on stage. I love the sound of Princes funky guitar, but it isn’t heard much here at all, just a little near the end of the song as the band quiet down as Prince sings “Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb” The song ends with Prince calling “London, I am here, where are you”

There is plenty of nostalgia early on, the very next song is I Feel For You. It has plenty of pop and sparkle, even after all these years. I hear much more Shelby on it than Prince, but she does a good job, and she doesn’t take over the song, Prince is much more in the mix as the song progresses. The horn section give it a brassy sound, as you might expect from a horn section.

Things move along at a fair clip as we segue into Controversy. I enjoy the electric sound of it on record, but this performance has lots of horns and backing singers which fill it out much more than the song I love from the early eighties. It’s very much played for audience participation, and Prince gets the crowd singing along early. This continues on to the “People call me rude” sections he has then sing the lines back to him before the ‘Clap your hands, stomp your feet” becomes the chant from him and Shelby. The horns get a nice break, and then this is further empathized when just the drum plays while they jam some more. I am not a big fan of it, but next Prince calls for Maceo to solo, and this blows the doors off it. He sounds awesome, and I have a whole new appreciation for horns. I can see why the man is a living legend. Maceo plays for a good minute, and he is really going to town on it. Prince changes tack shortly after by asking the crowd if they know about the Quake, before encouraging them to jump up and down. As always, I aren’t a fan of this. It would be fine if you were at the show, but on the recording it leaves me feeling shortchanged. Luckily he only does it briefly before closing the song out.

Prince 2007a

A bit of blues next as Prince and Renato Neto start a smoky rendition of Satisfied. It feels like quite a jump after the last few numbers, but its par for the course at a Prince concert. Prince plays up the song as much as he can, and you can hear the audience reacting to him as the song progress. With just him and the organ, it’s the lyrics that matter most, and the crowd is hanging on his every line. Mike Phillips breaks up the proceedings with a sharp sounding sax solo. It’s not my cup of tea, and but I do like it when Prince ends the solo with a few screams of his own. There is plenty of humor in the performance when Prince runs through ‘the rules’ He begins with “Can I talk to just the ladies” which immediately brings forth plenty screams and whoops from the crowd. He then runs through the rules, such as “learn to work the toilet seat, if it’s up, put it down” He half sings half speaks, and as he runs through his lines I can’t help but laugh out loud. It’s all funny, because it’s true. He ends it with one more “satisfieddddddd” and the steady beat of Cream begins.

It doesn’t sound great on this recording, the beat is a too insistent, and I find it’s all I concentrate on. The band plays well, Prince sings well, but the mix has me scratching my head. Prince saves the song somewhat with his brief but worthwhile guitar solo. For a few moments I stop concentrating on that beat, and I enjoy the song. The last couple of minutes of the song are decent, and I am happy as it transitions to U Got The Look.

U Got The Look isn’t too guitar heavy. With only Prince on guitar there is a little more space, and I enjoy the drumming much more. Prince keeps a good rhythm line going on his guitar and it’s not too loud or distortive, but it does have a nice little buzz to it. His solo is reined in, and surprisingly I enjoy it just as much like this. He plays sharp but not too extravagantly.

Musicology is neither here nor there. It’s not good enough for me to enjoy it, yet there’s nothing bad about it. The song moves along, but it never moves me. I do like it as Prince moves around the band for each of them to play. The drums and trombone In particular I enjoy the most. Things take a very interesting turn as Prince injects Prince And The Band into the song. It takes my brain a few seconds to register what I am hearing, but yes, Prince And The Band is a nice fit to it musically. “Ohh Funky London” is the next chant we hear. But after listening to quite a few of these concerts, it’s something I could happily pass on. The crowd sound like they are enjoying it, and it certainly achieves its goal of getting the audience involved. Greg Boyer ends the song with a funky few seconds of trombone. A song of ups and downs, the jury is still out on this one.

Next is the highlight of the show for me, the Prince piano set.  Prince prefaces it by telling us what a beautiful thing music is, and how a little music can make everything all right. The first song in this piano set is Little Red Corvette. Little Red Corvette has taken on many guises over the years, but I always enjoy a piano rendition. The crowd obviously enjoy it too, and they sing along. Prince’s vocals don’t sound 100% focused on the music, but his piano playing is delicate and sweet. He toys with the audience a little before the song ends with a cheer.

I am not a great fan of I Would Die 4 U, but the piano arrangement played here is my favorite version of all time. I absolutely love this part of the recording. Prince starts singing and playing quietly and softly singing but after the first verse he starts playing the keys harder and harder, his head starts bobbing and the song becomes much stronger. His vocals take on that impassioned sound (real or faked) and it’s got an emotional feel to it. It’s a shame it’s only a minute, but it’s a great part of the show for me.

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How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore has long been a stalwart of the piano set, and here is no different. I still enjoy it, but it’s no different from any other version I have heard. The quiet bits are quiet, and the loud whiny bits are still loud and whiny. Everything is as it should be. I am impressed that he doesn’t shorten it here at all, and he plays it right through to the fade out of “Why don’t you call me sometime…”

Another great song follows with Something In The Water. For me there is plenty of emotion in the song as Prince plays it alone at the piano. The stripped back sound leaves just Princes voice to listen to, as there is very little happening at the piano. His vocals don’t have the cold empty sound of the 1999 recording, they are more rich as he plays with the arrangement. It’s not outstanding, but it is very good.

There is a real 1999 flavor as he follows this with Delirious. I dislike this song, but I find in the piano set that it is very fun and enjoyable. If it was like this more often I could really warm to it. It’s rockabilly sound comes through well on the piano, and you get the sense that it was written in this way.

Another 1999 treat next as Prince plays Free. Not one of the stronger tracks on 1999, it gets much more of my attention on this recording as it’s played surrounded by other piano tunes rather than surrounded by the cold electro funk of the 1999 album. Prince plays it delicately and it lacks some of the cheesiness of the recording. This is a great piano set, and it’s a pleasure to hear so many songs from 1999 get an airing.

Prince 2007d

Darkness, then the sound of the introduction of If I Was Your Girlfriend – ‘look at the bargains over here ladies.” I become excited at prospect of hearing If I Was Your Girlfriend, but it quickly changes to the chant of we will rock you. This flows nicely into an up-tempo bright brassy sounding Lets Go Crazy. I am not crazy about the song, but it does fill me with hope that we might hear the set similar to the super bowl set. The horns keep it moving brightly along, and with the keyboards it has a very full sound. Prince does play his breaks, but they are somewhat overshadowed by the band, and this is further heightened when he does some call and response with the crowd which seems to take more attention away from his playing.

There is the fanfare of 1999 and Prince keeps the party going with Baby I’m a Star. We are definitely getting the super bowl set, and I’m pretty damn happy about that. Baby I’m a Star is just a transition song, and we are very quickly into the next song.

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Proud Mary is up tempo and mostly horns. As with Baby I’m a Star it very short, no more than a verse and chorus before the music turns around and we get something darker and slower.

Prince begins All Along The Watchtower with a nice guitar break. I say nice, but I mean great. He plays much longer than he does at the super bowl show, his guitar playing goes for perhaps a minute before he sings. He makes the guitar moan and whine, and it’s a more expressive solo. There’s nothing fast in it, just song clean drawn out notes. Already it’s on my highlights reel of this show. I am so used to hearing the sound board quality of the super bowl show that I first I find Princes vocals a touch off here. But that’s the recording, rather than Prince himself. He sings the first verse, before the music takes an upswing and the next highlight strikes us.

The Best Of You sounds just as good at this show as it did at the super bowl gig. Sure there isn’t the added intensity of the falling rain, but Prince definitely has his funk face on as he contorts himself with the guitar sound. I would have liked to hear the guitar clearer, it’s mixed in with the rest of the band, but the song does sound good, and it’s worth it just for the showmanship.

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Take Me With U follows on, and it feels light and breezy after the heavy guitar tones of all Alone the Watchtower, and The Best Of You. It’s not quit as poppy as it sometimes sound, there is too much in the sound, but the crowd are definitely enjoying it, I can see plenty of hand waving on the DVD.Princes vocals are a little ragged, which is unusual, normally his vocals are crisp and clear.

The opening strum of Guitar keeps the tempo and vibe up. Prince sings, but I’m not really interested at this stage, I want to hear what he can do with his guitar. Like the previous song, his vocals still sound rough so it is a relief when he stops singing and moves into “guitar god ‘mode. His guitar breaks aren’t on the great level, but they are lots of fun, and a good listen. The advantage of the DVD is I can see how much he turning it on for the crowd and it’s about the show as much as the playing itself. And on a personal note, when I was at this show there was a guy in front of my with his young daughter, and as he came to our side of the stage he saw her and gave the biggest nod and wink before pulling out another face driven solo. The song finishes with Prince standing still and delivering up one final guitar break.

The songs from Lets Go Crazy to Guitar had been played without break, so it’s somewhat of a relief when Prince pauses to address the crowd. He breaks things up with his patter about “what can I play next, I got too many hits” The opening strum of Kiss ends this moment and he gives us a very smooth rendition of Kiss. The first part of the song I don’t find very interesting, but I do like it much more when he picks up his guitar for a funky rhythmic break. He changes the “You don’t have to watch’ line to “Big Brother” thus firmly dating this as a mid 2000’s performance.

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Purple Rain is one of the weaker songs on this recording. The mix seems to be all out, it opens with the keyboards, but they feel out of balance, and things don’t improve when Prince sings. For most of the song it sounds to me like Princes voice is overtaken by the keyboard.  It doesn’t have the clean sound I associate with it, the sound where I can hear every instrument playing together, instead it sounds like they are thrown up against each other and it’s a battle to who will be loudest. I cross my fingers that it will improve when Prince starts his guitar break. It does improve, Princes guitar is much louder and cuts across everything else. And what I really like is that he is playing it on the Horner, which to my mind is the way it should be played, as that is how it was originally recorded. Prince keeps the guitar break modest, and the crowd is soon singing their “oowww owww ooooswws”. All in all the song is kept very short and tidy.

There is now a break before the band return for the first encore. The encore begins with the song Chelsea Rodgers which sounds like a classic pop song here. It begins with some nice bass and threatens to be funky, but when the band join it becomes very pop. I do like the song, and this is a good performance of it. Princes vocals aren’t heard very well, I can hear Shelby J better than him. The horn lines aren’t as intrusive as I expect, they lack a sharpness, but they do have a break which gives them a chance to be heard. Maceo gets another break later in the song as does Greg Boyer on trombone, and both of them sound great to my ears.

Prince calls for the lights to be turned off, and we here the synthesizer sound of Sexy Dancer. The music is Sexy Dancer, but its Le Freak that Shelby and the band sing over it. Prince himself doesn’t sing, but he does provide the rhythm guitar underneath. There’s not enough Prince in the song for my liking, it’s all Shelby and the horns, with Prince calling the shots. Renato does play a solo on the keyboards, its note perfect but fails to move me. Things improve immensely when Prince plays, we have a minute of funky rhythm guitar before the band move back in. The song finishes up with Princes rhythm guitar and the band.

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Play That Funky Music finishes before it begins. The rhythm guitar kicks off nicely, but after the band join in Prince ends it after only a few lines. It’s not a must listen to me, so I aren’t too upset by it at all.

Shelby J comes to the spotlight again as she leads the band through Crazy. I like her vocals a lot, and she does a fine job singing this. As much as I enjoy it, once again there is very little Prince in it, so I find my attention waning. I love the vocoder sound playing the background, and this is one part of the song I listen to the most. Shelby then proceeds to sing I Can’t Get You Out of My head, but here I feel she overdoes it, and it’s not as good as the original. With a final shout out to Shelby from Prince the song ends.

Prince then comes back on to the microphone for Nothing Compares 2 U. It’s very much Princes song, but he only sings every second line here, preferring to let the crowd do the rest. It’s great for the crowd, but a frustrating listen here at home. Mike Phillips improves things no end with a fantastically enthusiastic sax solo. He gives it all he’s got, and it’s the best part of the song in my eyes. Prince then sings one more chorus with the crowd before the song ends. This song could have been so much more, but it feels like they skimmed over it a bit, the only thing that really stood out was that great sax solo.

The main show proper ends at this stage, but Prince does return for another encore with a sampler set. As you well know it’s going to be a lot of teases and short snippets, but we will give it a listen anyway.

The first song to get an airing is Sign O The Times. Prince doesn’t mess around too long at the start and surprisingly sings the whole first verse before we jump right into Pop Life.

Pop Life is another surprise, he doesn’t tease it at all, and sings the entire verse and a chorus. Being the sampler, the music sounds exactly as on record. Prince sings from his stool, and freed from any instrument engages the audience with lots of eye contact and waving.

Mountains is another pleasant surprise to my ears. Unfortunately this time it really is a tease, before just a few moments of Irresistible Bitch is played.

Doves Cry fairs a little better, Prince does sing the first verse and a chorus. As always I am hungry for more, but Prince moves on.

The opening of Erotic City has me disappointed, as I know there was no way he was going to play it. Sure enough after a few bars he moves into something more suitable to his current convictions.

Alphabet St has the crowd dancing. Once again there isn’t too much I can say about it, as it too only has the opening verse. Its good while its there, but its barely there at all.

Prince takes the cheers of the crowd, before telling them “I gotta do this for me” and the funky shuffle of DMSR begins. Another 1999 song, it has me overjoyed. As is the way of the sampler set, I get my hopes up and then it fades away. I am just thankful we get the first verse as we do.

Raspberry Beret probably gets the best of the sampler set. Prince has the beat playing on the sampler, but then plays piano live over the top of it, which gives it a nice simple feel. He trades lines with the crowd, for the first verse and then finishes the chorus, and the song with the audience singing “I love her” and him replying “I love you too” Theres nothing great musically here, but it is a nice way to finish the show with the audience. The recording and the concert end at this point, no bombastic finish, just this easy sentiment.

Asides from the sampler set, I thought this show was great. It can be broken down section by section, he started with a block of hits, then a nice piano set, the superbowl set, a block of guitar heavy songs, a dancey/party encore and then the sampler set. Purple Rain was a disappointment as was the sampler, but everything else was about as much as I could ask for, especially hearing so much off the 1999 album. If I was choosing a good mainshow to listen to, I would choose this one. The fact that I was there is just the icing on the cake.

Take care
Hamish

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The Hi-Fi Brisbane

I shouldn’t like today’s show, but it is one that I actually listen to quite a lot. On paper it doesn’t have much going for it, it’s an audience recording, the set list is rather ho-hum, and it’s only just over an hour long. But I find myself coming back to it again and again- I guess there is no accounting for some peoples taste. An aftershow from the Australian tour of 2012, it’s more recent than some of the gigs I have dusted off over the last couple of months. So before I begin, please bear in mind that although I enjoy this one, it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes.

Brisbane 2012b

19 May, 2012 (am) The Hi-Fi Brisbane, Australia

There is an unusual start to this recording and show, as the first thing we hear is a couple of minutes of the PA, while there is a live sound check. While ‘I Know You Got Soul’ plays you can hear various instruments being checked, a few drum beats here and there, and a bass run or two. Often I find that the beauty of listening to these recordings is that I listen carefully and imagine that I myself am at the show. And with the band sound checking with the PA I can well imagine the excitement in the room, as that is the feeling I get here listening at home. And to give you further insight to my world, I often dance around the room listening to these songs, before forcing myself to sit down and listen again and write about it, and believe me and was and truly dancing around the room for the first portion of this show.

Brisbane 2012

The PA stops playing abruptly and the drums of Musicology begin. It’s got a good shuffle to it, and the horn stabs and prominent while the organ adds depth behind it. The bass enters, and then some great rhythm guitar. It’s got a funky wah wah sound before it changes and starts to play some funky sounding lead lines. I have never been a fan of Musicology but if it had hace been played more like this in the main shows then I definitely would have given it much more love. Played here as a jam with plenty of guitar and bass its sounds much fuller and funkier. The bass hits a nice loop and the singers join in with a good harmony of “I know you got soul”. Because this is an audience recording, there is a lot of crowd noise, and sometimes it does drown the band, but I feel it’s a trade off, as it does give it a brilliant live feel. This one is far from the sterile shows I sometimes hear. Prince call “Brisbane, I know you got soul”, and there is great cheer from the crowd before Prince goes on to play a lot more guitar. Its not a roaring guitar solo, just very long, funky, improvised playing. Mr. Hayes gets called for a solo, and there is a moment when you can hear Prince calling to the sound desk “Turn him up, help him, help him”. The organ then becomes noticeable louder and Mr. Hayes plays a very nice break. Shelby J follows soon after singing Mama Feelgood, and I must say it’s very refreshing to hear her singing, rather than encouraging the audience as we hear at the main shows. She does have a great voice, and is a favorite of mine, but I feel she doesn’t play to her strengths at the main shows. Here it’s all about her singing, and I am onboard as a fan. The band do all get a chance to play, there is a brief drum break for John Blackwell, and Cassandra O’Neal also gets a small solo. Both are good in their own ways, but too short to be noteworthy. Again, there is very much the feeling that its a live show as Prince gets on the microphone to speak to the crowd, and at the same time asking for the sound desk to give him “more high-end on stage, more high-end” I love that this is raw and unpolished, and they are working on it as they go. He further goes on to explain to the audience “we get it right, we can stay here all night” There is then a few minutes when the song is stripped back to Ida and John Blackwell, before the crowd start to chant with Prince “ooohhhhh, Brisbane”. The last two minutes of the song is Cassandra and John Blackwell playing, it’s a funky rhythm and has me itching to dance. The song ends, and I see it’s clocked in at almost 18 minutes- a great way to start an aftershow.

Brisbane 2012a

Ida on the bass, and some heavy organ from Mr. Hayes starts us into Days Of Wild. The first call of Prince to the crowd of “these are the days, these are the days” has them chanting along from the start. There is some heavy organ which I do like, before Prince starts to sing. As I said earlier, there is a trade off with audience recordings, and here I find I don’t hear Princes vocals as well as I expect. He’s not spitting the lyrics as intensely as he used to, and there is also some distortion in the sound which makes him hard to listen to. And of course I should mention, I have this playing way too loud for my speakers, so it’s not always just about the show! Prince comes out with his “oh by the way I play the bass guitar” but what follows is fairly muted and restrained by his standards. There is then a nice moment when the main refrain from America is played, before we return to the heavy organ groove of Mr. Hayes. I have to give further love to Mr. Hayes, when he then goes on to play a great organ break for a good minute or so. It fantastic, and adds a warm darkness to everything. There is then a great break, with just the band pulling right back while the guitar plays a funky stroke. It’s the funkiest moment of the song, before Prince begins to sing Wild And Loose. He only sings it for a verse, before there is another keyboard solo. This song is just dripping, and it’s impossible not to move to it. Liv also gets a moment to sing on it, and she delivers an impassioned and deep Ain’t Nobody. I am really feeling this one as another keyboard solo comes at us, and the heavy groove goes on and on. Cassandra plays great on the piano, but its only fitting that it’s Mr. Hayes who plays us through to the end of the song with his organ. “These are the days, these are the days”!

Brisbane 2012c

The Question Of U starts as purely an instrumental, while Prince plays some restrained lead guitar. I say restrained, as in its not fiery and loud, but it does have a stratospheric sound. He does sing, but it’s not The Question Of U, instead he sings the lyrics of The One over the music. The One is some of my favorite lyrics, and I am pleased that the recording is good enough that I can hear him quite clearly throughout this song. He pauses after each verse for some guitar play, nothing wild, just suitably mournful. After the second verse he does play with a tone more in line with what I expect from A Question Of U. Although he plays a good long break, the song isn’t totally about him and his guitar. After his solo, there is then a long piano break, played by presumably Cassandra. The surprises keep coming as Prince begins to the sing Gingerbread Man. The band is very quiet at this point, and it’s mostly Princes vocals and the crowd we can hear. I am not overly familiar with the song, but I really enjoy it here, and it’s a great fit for the song. Soon after Mr. Hayes plays another break (he sure is busy tonight) before the song comes to a soft end with the audience clapping and singing “ooohh, ohhh. ohhh, oooohh” A beautiful song, and again it’s played to maximum effect with nothing feeling rushed at all.

Brisbane 2012d

The dark bluesy arrangement of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man follows next, and it’s soaked in a melancholy feel, especially the guitar tone and Princes vocals. I am a big fan of this slowed down arrangement, and this one is particularly smoky. Prince’s guitar playing is tight earlier on, but there is a great release when he does open up and play the first break. Like a door cracking open, the opening notes pull us in and I want to hear what comes next. Prince doesn’t unleash it right away, he returns to the verse after a few bars, but it builds the anticipation. At this point you can hear some people in the crowd commenting that this version is better, and although I don’t like hearing them on the recording, I do agree with their sentiments. After the next verse Prince does open up on the guitar fully, and this is a good one, I mean the solo is full of emotion and soul. It’s not a solo for the ages, but on this song on this night it’s just perfect. He does play faster as the song goes, but never furiously so, and as I said before, the fact is it’s a very soulful and mournful solo. The emotion continues as the music breaks down and Prince sings “I could never” over and over. Every word is full of passion, and it gives the song a vibe that is missing on the album. The keyboards play some piano and organ, before Prince sings the refrain a couple more times and closes the song with one last mournful line.

Brisbane 2012e

Prince gets a break from vocal duties next as Shelby takes the lead for a rendition of Brownskin. After the intensity of the previous song, it leaves me a little deflated. Shelby sings well, and I can hear the band is in good form with Prince on guitar, but it’s not at the same high level of the first four songs. There is a guitar break by Prince midsong which is noteworthy, plenty of sustained notes and a very electric tone to his guitar, but it’s only short and we return to Shelby. On a better recording, I would give this one a lot more time, but being only an audience recording it is hard work to listen to, and even with another fine guitar break by Prince near the end I still can’t quite give it a pass.

Brisbane 2012f

Prince calls for the lights to be turned up as he starts the rhythm guitar of Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). I have heard this one plenty over the years, so it fails to fire me up when I hear it here. It’s as we have heard it previously, although the break with Prince playing plenty of rhythm guitar is cool, and for me the most enjoyable part of the song. It’s at this stage of the gig that things speed up a little, and the earlier vibe of a jam is lost. This is very much a show that has two halves. The first few songs were all longer jams, and plenty of intensity, but at this stage a lighter vibe is present, and the songs are getting shorter. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) only goes for a few minutes before it ends and Prince plays the funky guitar intro of Love Rollercoaster. He doesn’t go on to play the rest of the song, we just have half a minute of him alone playing the rhythm before we move on to the next song.

Brisbane 2012g

Next his guitar playing moves to the rhythm of Controversy and the kick drum comes in behind him. There is the keyboard sound, before we have the main groove that we know so well. The crowd gets a chance to sing along as the band play, and the band do a great job of it, they sound very tight. Prince does play with the crowd little, getting them to scream and shout in a brief call and response. There is then another verse and chorus a break down and Prince doing his “people call me rude” speech. Then as the Controversy groove continues Prince asks “how many people know about the quake” and we get a minute of him and Shelby encouraging the crowd to clap their hands and stomp their feet, before the song is brought to a close. Again it’s very short, and light.

Brisbane 2012h

The party is kept going as Prince and the band start to play I Know You Got Soul, nicely taking us back to where all this begun. Prince mostly speaks to the crowd, getting them dancing, before a very short chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”. The funky guitar starts again and we move to Play That Funky Music.

Play That Funky Music I have very strong feelings about. I don’t like it in his main shows, and I definitely don’t like it here. The band plays it very easily, and it feels a little throw away for them. This one is slightly better than others, in that Prince starts a guitar solo early on and maintains it for most of the three minutes. It swirls and grinds away while Prince occasionally sings a line or two to the audience. The song never really starts, nor does it ever turn into a jam, and it ends very quickly with Prince “Thank you Brisbane, and good night”

Brisbane 2012i

So there it is, an odd little show that I listen to a lot. The first part is very strong, and even though I dislike the second part of the show, it is very short and the first few songs more than compensate. As I said earlier, it’s not for everyone’s taste, but if you aren’t adverse to an audience recording and want to hear something a little off the radar, this would be as good a place as any to start.

Plenty of good shows been played here recently,
Hopefully I will get them on the blog as soon as I can.

Thanks again
Hamish

 

Oakland 2001

Today I will take a listen to a show from Oakland during the Hit N Run tour of 2001. I have already covered a show from the Hit N Run in San Jose from December 2000, and this one from just four months later is pretty similar. Despite a lot of the set list being the same, there are some differences, and I felt that the recording is worth listening to as well as the San Jose concert. Prince throws in just enough to make me want to give this one a spin too. So, if it does read similar to the San Jose concert, I apologize in advance. Some things are the same, and some things are different, such is life.

28 April, 2001 Oakland, California.

I am not a great fan of the prerecorded intros that Prince often uses. Yes, I do understand that it helps generate the energy and anticipation for the show to come, but in a way I find the snatches of songs are like spoilers for a TV show or movie. I feel its removes some of the surprises that may lie ahead. The intro here contains snippets of My Name is Prince, and just the barest of lines from Erotic City, both of which I would have loved to of heard in the main show, but don’t get played beyond this intro (now I’m the one giving spoilers!)

Prince 2001

The thrill of Uptown live has never left me. As soon as that drum rolls kicks of, and the signature guitar line plays I am like a 15 year old again. The quality of this recording is very good, and the song sounds just as good as it ever has. The mix is very strong, and Prince and his guitar are crystal clear in my speakers. He doesn’t sing too passionately, and I do get the sense that he is just going through the motions. In fact, when I listen carefully to the song, it sounds like the whole thing is played in this way, but I am too much in love with the song to really care.

Controversy has the excellent funky guitar again right to the fore. It’s a nice rendition we have here, the rest of the band and the keyboards are back in the mix and just like the previous song it’s mostly Prince and his guitar that we hear. And that’s no bad thing, as his singing and guitar playing are very crisp and clean. However the song is keep to a minimum and we quickly segue into Mutiny.

I have long been a fan of Mutiny, and have dozens of excellent recordings from various shows. This one doesn’t live up to any of those, sadly its missing that special X factor. The playing is excellent, as is the vocal performance, but there is an energy or passion missing from it. It’s a shame, as the recording is very good, just the performance at this stage isn’t up to the same level. Najee does get a couple of solos, but fails to add anything of real interest to it. There is a very fast and furious organ break just after which would have saved it all, if only it had have been longer. Again, I’m not criticizing the recording, or musicianship, but for me it’s just missing that little bit extra.

I enjoy The Work Pt 1 much more. Its live debut was only two weeks before this show, so to Prince and the crowd it’s still very much a new song. He seems to be feeling this one a little more than the previous songs and is more engaged. The song does meander just a fraction, but Mike Phillips does play a lovely clean guitar solo which for me is the high point of the song. Prince does sing over most of it, but my ears are very much focused on what Mike is playing.

Next comes Cream, and it’s played very smooth and clean, this band seems to have a good handle on this song and it plays to their strengths. Listening to a lot of recordings, I often don’t give Cream the time or attention it deserves, but here it has my full attention. Especially when Prince plays a nice solo on his guitar midsong, and it’s very much played in the ‘Prince tone’, it’s unmistakably his guitar sound. A very pleasant surprise to my ears, this song is the first time where I feel the show is drawing me in.

That feeling continues next as Little Red Corvette gets a nice long intro, with plenty of keys and a few howls from the backing singers. As most of you know, I could just listen to this opening refrain over and over, and this one is no different. When Prince does begin to sing it’s once again with a very good clean sound. He isn’t too engaged but his vocals are very crisp. The song is kept quite short from this point, but it’s not too bad, as the next song is a real treat to my ears.

Prince begins I Wanna Be Your Lover with a bold “Stop trying to front like you know my jams, you don’t know my songs” The rest of the song starts with Prince and the crowd alternating lines, before Prince takes over and delivers his classic falsetto. Of course the crowd knows every line, and you can hear them singing strongly in the background. The bass is nicely mixed on the recording, and I can hear it nicely bumping along in the left speaker. The song itself only runs for a couple of minutes, but it’s cool while it lasts.

Sexy Dancer next, and its sounding like it’s a good song for the crowd to get up and dance to. There is no singing to speak of, it’s all groove with the snare and bass keeping the groove going with some keys run over top. It’s very tight, and great to listen to, but once again it’s only a couple of minutes. But still, I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Prince 2001c

The kicking beat of Housequake begins next, and Prince lets it run for a minute before he hits us with “Tell me who in this house know bout the quake?” From here the rest of the band join in and I must say its sounds very cool. Najee isn’t strong, but his horn line does sound good. Sure there are better renditions I have heard, but Najee does his job well, and Mr. Hayes on the keys gives us some enjoyable lines. It’s got some new things for me to listen to, and I do like it all. There’s very little singing, just a nice groove and that beat that I will hear in my head for the rest of the day.

I am very happy that The Ballard of Dorothy Parker gets another airing at this show. The low key playing of the band and the disinterested singing of Prince really suit the downbeat feel of the song. My enthusiasm wanes a little when Najee begins to play, but the moment is saved by Mr. Hayes on the keys. The song spins off into an instrumental jam, with Madhouses Four thrown in as well as Talkin Loud And Saying Nothin. It fails to fire my enthusiasm, where on some other shows I enjoy Najee, here I find him lifeless and frankly a little boring. But the keyboard throughout is good, and gives me something else to focus on. It’s all nice, but not something I would be in a hurry to return to.

There is an interlude next where Prince speaks to the crowd about the NPG music club, and strangely I find myself enjoying his sentiments, even if I know that in the future he will shy away from the internet and such openness with his fans. It was a nice dream while it lasted, and I am reminded here of his idealistic vision.

This speech about record companies and NPG music club is followed with Someday We’ll be Free. The song sounds nice, but fails to engage me, as Prince himself doesn’t sing, and there is a lot of Najee in there. I am surprised how much I dislike Najee on this recording, as on the San Jose recording from four months previously I really enjoyed him, but at this show he seems to add very little. The song has a well intended sentiment, and the execution is good enough, buts it’s not the reason I come to a Prince show or am a Prince fan.

I am back on board as Prince sings U Make My Sun Shine. This is where the quality of the recording comes to the fore, as I can hear Prince vocals, and the backing singers just beautifully working together. The song has a silky smooth sound to it, and although this smooth sound isn’t really my cup of tea, I still appreciate and enjoy it here. There is the classic Prince spoken breakdown midsong, which is fun to listen to, without being outstanding. What is really good though is the next minute when Prince asks Mike to play the blues, and there is a minute of very sharp guitar playing from him. It’s nicely paced and has a beautiful clean tone to it. Prince returns for some more spoken lines, but by now I’m a little over it and it’s perhaps a bridge too far for my tastes. Najee gets half a minute to play, and now I am dangerously close to pushing the skip button. There is some Prince playing guitar, which as always I give my attention to, but really this portion of the show is a little drawn out for me.

The next part of the show is very interesting to me, and gives a good insight to Princes world at that time. Prince tells the crowd that he is happy to be in Oakland because that’s where Larry Graham is from. He then goes on to say “Sometime I think he is my best friend in the whole wide world”. He continues by telling the crowd that Larry Graham asked him if he ever tried a show without cussing, and told him he used those words for effect. Prince tells the crowd that those words from Larry messed with him and he decided that “It isn’t the words that make me funky, it’s the funk that makes me funk”. He then plays some real funky guitar which has me excited. He goes on to shout out some of the celebrities in the crowd that night, and is in good humor as he tells the crowd that he told Laurence Fishburne he could have free tickets if he told him the plot to the Matrix 2 and 3. It’s a nice break in the action and he goes on to ask for the house lights to be turned on so he can see the crowd.

Prince 2001b

Next we get a nice up-tempo I could never take The Place of Your Man. The up-tempo beat gets the show back on track after the lull of the last twenty minutes. It’s not a totally rocked out version, but Prince does play a good break, although this is very short before the breakdown. There is absolutely no complaint from my end though, as the breakdown gets played to the hilt, and there is some excellent guitar playing from Prince for the next couple of minutes. The breakdown has some interesting guitar runs from Prince, it’s more sharply and faster than some other breaks I have heard from him. Najee enters for a minute too, and although I have been generally negative towards him so far through the recording, he does redeem himself here as I love the variation from what is traditionally a very rocky song. I am waiting for Prince to return with his guitar coda, but instead it’s Najee who plays us through to the end of the song. Interesting, but not great.

We next hear Prince at the piano for the piano medley part of the show. This one follows what we heard at the San Jose show, but it’s a great selection of songs and there is no complaint from me for what we hear next. He begins by playing my long time favorite Do Me Baby. The piano playing is nicely under pinned by some organ and a soft beat. Prince starts with his trademark “owww” before gently singing the verses that we know so well. He pauses after the line “You want me just as much as I want you” and receives and appreciative cheer from the crowd. The song resumes with Prince singing relatively softly and sounding reserved in his delivery. Even a shriek or two can’t quite shake the feeling that he’s holding a lot back.

Scandalous too has this feeling about it, but that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying it immensely. Prince’s vocals are delicate, and the band provides some nice little stabs behind him. It doesn’t have the seductive power of the original, but it is well played. Again Najee comes on board for a solo, but it’s neither here nor there, and comes across as bland rather than inspirational. The drum seems to lack some pop to it, and I wonder if it’s the mix, or the performance.

There is plenty of Najee influence all over Diamonds and Pearls, and it begins with him playing before Prince vocal lines begin. It’s easy to dismiss it as nice but boring, but I do enjoy the half minute we get here. Prince sings only the first verse before we move on to the next song.

I was looking forward to hearing The Beautiful Ones when I saw it on the setlist, and it doesn’t disappoint. The sound seems to change during the song, and I wonder if it’s the recording, or if my headphones weren’t quite plugged in right earlier. But the recording does take on a deeper fuller sound, and at just the right moment too. Prince’s voice has more strength to it on this song, and he sings the second part of it in his throaty voice. This is some great howls and shrieks near the end and for a minute I am transported back to the 1980s. The song ends, but it seems like the concert has turned a corner, and we have reached a better place.

Nothing Compares 2 U keeps to the loves lost theme, and Prince plays the part of the victim well. He voice is suitably sad and mournful when it needs to be, without ever being over the top. There is a moment when midsong he introduces Najee for a break, but it is kept short and we return quickly to the main body of the song. The song fades out with Najee playing while Prince speaks to the crowd about love, before the final coda with Najee. I enjoy him much more at this point, this seems like a much better fit for him here.

There is then a break with what sounds like electronic movie music. It doesn’t do much for me, and it certainly doesn’t seem very Prince like. But it does nicely fill the break while we wait for the encore.

Prince 2001a

The encore begins with the long keyboard intro of Lets Go Crazy. There is no spoken piece as you may expect with it, but it does run for a good minute before Prince can be heard with “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life” and the classic guitar riff begins. The drums sound good, the bass sounds good, the guitar sounds good, but once again it’s missing the Xfactor. I can’t fault the song in anyway, but it never quite grabs me. Prince’s guitar solo is nice, but not much more, and the song ends before it feels like it has even begun. Here it is just a shadow of its former self.

Take Me with U begins, but it too feels like it is just plodding along. Prince sings a little, and then leaves the crowd to sing the chorus before we move quickly on to……..

Raspberry Beret. Not much surprise there. Prince does speak to the crowd briefly about God and Christ, before the song begins proper with the crowd singing along. Prices guitar does chug along nicely, and the crowd do sound like they enjoy it. And it is good to hear a bit of pure pop and joy in the evening, which has sounded like a Prince concert by the numbers.

Darling Nikki is a funny and cool arrangement. The rolling snare sounds sharp, and the keyboard has a fun dainty sound to it. Prince cleverly avoids singing the lurid lyrics by having the crowd sing some of the more risqué lyrics. The latter part is also a bit of fun, with the bass rumbling well in the speakers while the keyboards provide some thrills and excitement. They even play it right through to the end, complete with the backwards finish, which is a treat.

The start of When Doves Cry is pure purple Prince, with the cold passionless Prince singing the main lines while the keyboard plays in the background. It briefly raises my hopes that this too will be played in full, but after a brief drum and keyboard refrain we move on.

Fathers Song is great, although short. Najee plays most of it, and he does a fine job of it. There isn’t too much more to say about it, although it does end with a few moments of him playing Computer Blue, which too is a tease and a treat.

As with the San Jose concert, the arrangement of The One, mixed with I would Die 4 U and Baby I’m A Star is outstanding. Over the somber music of The One Prince sings one line of Baby I’m a Star, and I Would Die 4 U. I couldn’t have imagined it working before I first heard it, but it is truly excellent. It runs at two minutes, and that is mostly the music alone before Prince sings his lines near the end. In my view, the concert is worth it just for these couple of minute.

Over the music of God Prince works his way through the band introductions, before he ends and hands the song over to Najee. Najee seems in his comfort zone here, and he gets a good four minutes to do what he does best. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea- it’s certainly not mine, but it does sound good, he does what he does well. It does feel like the show is coming near the end with this type of song and that’s proved correct as the next song is the final Purple Rain.

Prince 2001d

There is very little in way of introduction for Purple Rain, Prince starts singing almost right from the start. The recording has sounded good all the way through, and on this song you can really hear the nice echo on Princes vocals. You can also pick up some seconds of sweet guitar playing throughout as he sings his lines. Later the more heavy guitar enters and its here that for the first time in the show it sounds as if Prince is really expressing himself. After the initial intro to the guitar that I am used to he goes into his longer improvised section, and it’s now that I listen more carefully and get a lot more out of this show. It’s not fiery, but it is impassioned. The crowd does have its moment near the end, but the recording doesn’t pick them up very well, either they weren’t into it, or the mics just didn’t pick them up.

This show should have been more to me. It’s a great recording, and it’s got some top songs, and the band is faultless. And yet, as I said time and time again, it was lacking that magic to it. There was something missing, which left the songs sounding ‘nice’ but not great. Prince is in a holding pattern here, the next stage of his career, The Rainbow Children and ONA is very interesting for me, but here he is not quite there yet. He has moved on from his symbol era, but hasn’t really found his next place yet. But this is a great recording of a decent show, and I can’t fault it for that. A nice listen, but not essential.

See you next week with more of the same, but completely different
-Hamish

Parade Tour in Sweden

Was there ever a bad show on the Parade tour? Maybe, but this one certainly isn’t it. Today I return to one of my favorite tours- The Parade tour, and take a listen to a recording from the Swedish concert. This is a fairly well known recording, it is available in video and audio, and one that I know many people enjoy – myself included. My two go to shows from this tour are the warm up show at First Ave, and the Cobo birthday show, but this one is a close third place behind those two. So, let’s sit back and enjoy what we have here.

22 August, 1986, Johanneshov, Sweden

The classic “Please welcome Prince and The Revolution” begins the show, while the band plays the beginning of Around The World In a Day in darkness. There is plenty to enjoy in the music at the beginning, lots of different instruments to pick out and enjoy, and these senses are heightened by the fact the band are playing behind a curtain. I do like this song a lot, and don’t really know what to expect from a live version, and the first thing that really grabs me is the wonderful sound of Princes voice. It has a well rounded and warm sound to it, and contrasts nicely to some of the instrumentation in the back ground. The rest of the band joins and the song starts proper, but after a minute of some great bass work and fanfares from the band we move into Christopher Tracey’s Parade.

Prince Parade

There is some guitar work in the left at the start of the Christopher Tracey’s Parade that seems a little out of place, but overall the sound and the texture of the song is just wonderful. I especially like the keyboards playing after the first verse. Lisa is playing some great stuff as well as providing backing vocals to Prince. The second half of the song the band moves up a gear and Prince takes his first break at the organ. He doesn’t play anything mind-blowing, but the organ adds more warmth and fullness before we move without pause to the next song.

New Position sounds very full and colorful here in comparison to what we hear on album. The horns play some nice wiggly lines, and the rest of the band fill out the song much more. In particular I can hear the guitar much more on this number. The song ends naturally enough with a flourish from the horns before the tempo changes.

I Wonder U is quite a change from what we have just heard, and the atmosphere of the recording changes with it. Here it’s again the keyboards I enjoy most, although the singing from Wendy is fine enough, it’s not a showstopper. Atlanta Bliss on the trumpet though, now that is a nice touch. He plays a break that sounds shaky but is actually very good. Already it’s my favorite moment of the first ten minutes of the show.

Prince asks if we are ready to rock and roll before the horns introduce Raspberry Beret with a flourish. Prince uses the song to encourage the audience to clap their hands and to sing. He himself sings most of it, which has me a little surprised as I expected he would leave it mostly to the crowd. The song sounds good enough, but I find that with verses cut out it does lack the charm of the story telling original. Again Prince teases us with just a brief moment on the organ, before the song transitions into the next part of the show.

Prince Parade 3

Prince does some cool sounding vocals at the start of Delirious, and then the band joins in and we go racing off. The vocals at the start are well worth the few seconds they get, I can imagine him doing more with it like this, especially when he stretches his voice out. The rest of the song is a fun dance along number, with plenty of time devoted to Prince and his back up dancers.

The funkometer goes up to ten next as the classic opening riff of Controversy begins. Always my favorite part of the Parade gigs, this is where the show starts for me. The song starts with plenty of funky guitar but the keyboard and horns also come in heavy and it’s a great funk sound. It could have derailed when Prince goes into his cigarette smoking routine, but things are saved when the next song starts.

Prince owns Love Bizarre in these live performances. The sound is funk yet still there is plenty of pop in there. The band and Prince deliver it all with such intensity, not just the music but also the performance. Wendy and Lisa sound great on the backing vocals, and the guitar playing is just as good too. There is a keyboard groove that keeps me moving, and I think groove is the perfect word to describe this song. The guitar and keyboard are relentless, and the horns add just a splash of color. Eric does get a solo moment, and he sounds as good as ever. Prince does encourage the crowd with “who’s house, Wendy’s house” and I want to sing along here at home. At one point the band drop out leaving just bass and drums, and I don’t need to reiterate, it’s so funky. ‘Stop on the one’ has Prince in band leader mode, but he doesn’t play up on it too much, content to just sit back and let the band play. The song ends with Prince on the drum riser, and I wonder how he can top that.

Prince Parade 1

Again the tempo drops, and Prince delivers a slow burning classic rendition of Do Me Baby. As always his vocal delivery is top shelf, but on this recording it’s the backing vocals that I notice most. They are right behind him on the chorus and it’s perfectly complimentary. Prince Wendy and Lisa really do sound wonderful together, I can’t deny. This is one of the better versions I have heard, Princes vocals are very clean sounding on the recording, and I can hear every note and inflection in his voice. The horns playing give the song and extra push near the end, and add to the seductive nature of the song. When I started writing about this show I didn’t expect Do Me Baby to be one of the highlights, but it is. The end of the song is breathtaking, and I don’t say that lightly, as Prince pulls the band back and sings as the crowd clap along. His lyrics sound excellent, and he throws in some appropriate screams and yells. He finishes up with the crowd singing with him. If the show ended right here I would be happy.

I still haven’t worked out why How Much Is That Doggie is in the set list, but I easily forgive them when the brief instrumental of Lady Cab Driver is played. Its only seconds long but its enough to remind me how much I love that song. The band move easily onto Automatic, which is no bad thing as it also is a favorite of mine from the 1999 album. Its not as dark as it sounds on album, on this recording its much more of a dance song, especially with all the horns thrown in, and Prince plays up this aspect for all its worth, with plenty of dancing throughout.

We stay with 1999 with a short but cool version of DMSR tacked on to the end. Again, it’s a medley version, with plenty of horns, so we don’t get to enjoy the fullness of it, but I know that as soon as I finish writing this I will be pulling out the 1999 album.

The simple keyboard riff of When Doves Cry is enough to get the crowd screaming. It’s played true to the album here, if anything it’s got an even more stripped down sound, the beat that Prince sings over is very sparse sounding. Part of the beauty of this song is the sound of Prince voice out alone in front of the music, and it is definitely true in this case. Its very melancholy sounding, and even when the bass enters that feeling remains with me. But the best part is definitely Wendy’s solo. The guitar tone is brilliant, and it’s got the sound of a lone instrument. The beat is still barren with just the occasional bass sound as she plays, and it’s a great rock moment. The full band enters soon after this point and the horns are finally heard, and sound oddly out of place on this recording, even thought I have enjoyed them plenty on other occasions. The coda has the horns playing while Prince plays at the organ, and I warm to them at this stage, it could well be another song but the sound is fantastic.

Prince Parade 4

This show gets better and better, I can’t believe how much I have gushed over it already, but still it keeps delivering. Next we have Prince alone at the piano, and instead of starting straight in on a song we have a couple of minutes of him improvising. Even if he is just warming up it sounds great, and I could happily listen to it for much longer. He does start to play Under The Cherry Moon, and I am even happier. Just the sound of his vocals and the piano are perfect and it seals the deal for me- this show is one of the greats. Prince and the piano are backed very well by some other keyboard work, but its never intrusive and Prince still has plenty of time to play his piano parts.

My favorite song from the Parade album is Anotherloverholenyohead, and to hear now with this band on this tour, well it doesn’t get much better. Lisa and Prince sound great, I was expecting to be writing about Eric Leeds, but it’s the girl’s voices that get my attention first. Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss do get their moment later in the song, and as you might expect they live up to their billing. Everybody seems to chime in for their part on this song, and Prince introduces Lisa as we get a long break of her piano playing. There is some great chords, and some fast delicate playing as well, and I can’t speak of it highly enough. In a show packed full of highlights this is yet another one.

Prince Parade 5

17 Days is another song that we need to hear more of. The bass line on this recording is nice and strong, and the full band makes for a much fuller sound than we hear on record. Like everything it’s a compromise, we lose some of the morose feeling of the original, but there are so much more great things to listen on here. The horns take over as Prince engages with audience, and throws bundles of flowers to the fans. The groove gets deeper and darker as the song goes along, and Prince gives us some organ play which fills out the sound a lot.

Prince Parade 6

“I hate rock n roll, who wants some head?” and the nasty part of the show begins. Head has a nice intro, moving from bare rhythm guitar to dirty horn stabs. Head is dirty by name and dirty by nature. I can hear the guitar lines on this one very well, and they lay a nice layer over which the horns and keyboard stabs play. Any show that has Head in it usually has me writing that it was a highlight. I am reluctant to say that, with a show packed with highlights, but it is the moment when I most wanted to put down my laptop and enjoy the music. Dr Finks solo sounds great, it’s a little different sounding than I am used to but still has me listening intently. The song breaks down to a nice long jam, and Prince calls for Bobby Z who lays down a nice snare beat. I was waiting for Prince to take his time and dance for much longer but instead he returns to the organ for another break before he starts dancing again. Head gets the full treatment, its drawn right out, lots of audience interplay and Prince playing band leader. He breaks into his electric man routine as he lies on the floor, which would be great if I hadn’t of seen it so much already. But as he calls for Booby to hit him with the snare I’m back on board. The band is on fire and of the whole show this is the performance I enjoy most from them. There is a little bit of everything. Prince even picks up a guitar to deliver some suitable dirty guitar to the proceedings, then walks off the stage as he finishes his guitar break and the band play us out in darkness.

Prince Parade 7

The tone is lightened again as the band strike up Pop Life. Live it sounds just as joyous as it does on record, and it starts off with Prince singing “Life it ain’t too funky, life it ain’t too funky” The rest of the song follows as heard on record, the main difference is that Princes vocals sound much stronger, and the keyboard riff is more to the fore. It does have a great live sound, Prince vocals are a little ragged, but it still has that pop. It also nice to hear Eric Leeds playing the flute solo live, a nice little touch that I didn’t expect. There aren’t any surprises musically or performance wise in the song, it does exactly what you would expect from the title. Prince does try for an audience sing along before the end, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the song ends at this point.

Girls and Boys sounds funky, but lacks the deep funky sound I associate it with. But I am in no criticizing it, I enjoy this performance a lot. As with the last song, it seems to gain an extra emphasis from the raggedness in Princes voice. He’s never rough sounding, but it does sound a little more throaty than earlier in the show. The best part for me is near the end when Prince lays down his spoken part. It sounds so strong and funky and for me it’s a great way to end the song.

The band keep up the pace with a quick segue into Life Can Be So Nice. There is plenty sound on this, but its kind of hard to pick out all the instrumentation, the mix is such that at a couple of points there is too much sound to digest. I love it for this, it’s an ambitious live song, and once again I find myself in awe of The Revolution. The second half of the song is where the groove really goes, and as is so often it has that sound that The Revolution might just play on like this for days. However the song does fade to a halt with The Revolution singing the main refrain over and over.

1999 sounds so good, it feels that this band could sleep walk through it and it would still sound great. There is just a touch of horns in it, rather than the full on horn treatment it receives in later years, and it still has that synthesized 1999 sound. With all the band members and dancers from the Parade era revolution I wonder how far they will push the party time coda, but it’s played straight and doesn’t out stay its welcome.

Prince Parade 8

There is a break for perhaps a minute after this. A chance for us to collect our breath before Mountains begins. Mountains sounds great right from the start, there is nice deep organ sound that can be heard underneath at the start of the song before Prince starts singing. The song doesn’t deviate too far from the original, but it’s great to hear it live. Especially Wendy’s guitar seems to sound more funky and raw live, an over all more organic sound. If I had any complaint about this song, it would be that it seemed to go by in a flash, but every moment was a joy.

The arrangement of Kiss on this recording is also very cool. The main riff is played on the keyboard, and the guitar only has a very low key presence through the song. The horns start the solo, and they sound sharp, before Wendy plays her solo, and the guitar comes to the fore for the rest of the song. As much as I love Wendy, I would have to say it was the first half of the song I preferred more, the sound of the keyboard playing the main riff was very cool to my ears. That said, the last 30 seconds with just the bare sound of Wendy’s and Mikos guitar has me reconsidering my words. They both have different sounds, but at the end of this one they sound great together. Its 30 seconds that I could listen to for hours.

Prince Parade 9

A single spot light on Wendy playing guitar takes us into Purple Rain. The introduction is very short, Wendy plays the opening chords only once before Prince starts singing immediately. I have heard plenty of drawn out introductions, so this on is actually a nice change. Prince doesn’t push his vocals too hard, and the keyboards sound way too loud compared to everything else – at least in the first verse, but again it’s not a bad thing. Another thing I notice about the mix, the girl’s voices are very loud and clear. It’s a good thing, I can easily hear how well they work together. There are no surprises in the guitar solo, but I had a good few minutes playing air guitar along with it, so it’s just as enjoyable as any other I have heard. He does play it for all he can, so we do get a nice long rendition. There seems to be very little crowd singing along with it, but this maybe a reflection on the recording, rather than the audience at the concert. There is a good 5-6 minutes of guitar to close out the show, and it’s nice to see him with his guitar again in a show that seems to have a touch of everything.

I love Parade shows. This one doesn’t offer up too much when you see the set list, the set list is average, but the show is anything but. The performances are what make this one so good, both musically and visually. Its well worth listening to if you want a reminder of just how great The Revolution were, they were all outstanding. This one is a great document of the Parade tour, and is essential for any collection.

Thanks again
Hamish

first night of 21 nights

Today’s entry is gong to be a little different from anything else I have written. I have written about some great recordings previously, and some significant gigs in the world of Prince, but this one is special to me for another reason. Today I will be writing about the first night of the 21 nights at the O2 London. Not only is it the first night of that series of concerts, it is also the first time that I ever saw Prince playing live. For me it is impossible to detach the recording from being at the event itself. I normally try to be fairly objective in my writing, but today any semblance of objectivity will go out the window. A lot of my memories and feelings are tied into this recording, I can’t listen to it without all these coming to the surface. So with that in mind, let’s take a listen- the CD is in the player, my cup of tea beside me, but in my mind I am coming up the escalator at North Greenwich station, and the excitement in the air is electric.

8 August 2007 O2 London

Opening the show is a video of the UK Hall of fame introduction. Prince is definitely marketing himself as an Icon/legacy act at this stage, and the video serves as a useful reminder to the fans there that he has had an outstanding career. I find it a little ho-hum, but it very much sets the scene for what comes next, and definitely gets the excitement levels rising in the crowd.

Prince 21 nights 2007

I am not convinced that Purple Rain is a great song to open a show with. Although, once again, I have to concede I do understand exactly why it is here at the beginning of the show. Prince is making a statement, opening his 21 night stand with the song that is most closely associated with him, and from the most stellar part of his career. On a personal note- this is not one of my favorite Prince songs, it has been played at 100’s of concerts over the years, and has long since lost its sparkle for me. But, this was my first time to see Prince after being a fan for 25 years, and as he rose out of the dry ice, singing his signature song, I have to say it was pretty emotional. There may well have been a tear in my eye (I am sure it was just from the dry ice). On listening to the recording now I find that away from the hype and excitement, it is actually a good rendition of the song. Instead of the hanging guitar chords at the beginning, we get a nice little piano intro. It’s not drawn out at all, and Prince starts singing without too much intro. The drum beat isn’t as strong as it used to be, and the music sounds very much in the back ground, this is all about Princes vocal delivery, and its nice and strong right from the start. To his credit, he does play a full version, every verse is there as it should be. I am always pleased when it gets the full treatment, and the crowd is in fine voice for every chorus. The guitar solo has a fine sound to it, it’s not muscular as it sometimes sounds on the symbol guitar. There is nothing extra or unheard in the guitar break, but it is very decent sounding. It is a little strange to hear the crowd singing “oww, owww, owww” and knowing that this is still the first song, and we have a long way to go yet. I found it enjoyable, but perhaps a much better measure would be what a more casual fan thought of it- immediately after the song finished my friend, who had rather reluctantly come along to the gig, turned to me with a massive grin on his face and said “That was brilliant- I got my moneys worth right there with that song”.

Prince 21 nights 2007 1

Girls and Boys ups the tempo, and for me the gig begins now. Although the recording isn’t soundboard, it still is good, and Girls and Boys sounds great. Prince has a great funky sounding vocal delivery and the keyboards and horns propels it along in a non-stop fashion. This is the funky Prince I enjoy most, and it is an early highlight. The best part of it is when Maceo takes over and delivers a killer solo. It just takes off, and has a life of its own. There is also a trombone solo, which although not as good as Maceos solo is still a different addition that I really enjoy. Prince does break down the song at one stage for some audience singing of Dance, Music, Sex, Romance- it does break the momentum, but things ramp again with some more great horns and singing straight after. This song has lost nothing of its funk after all these years. It finishes with Prince yelling “Somebody scream!” It’s an excellent start to show after the slow start.

Third song in and things really pull back with a smoky version of Satisfied. It’s quite a change after the stomping Girl and Boys, but as Prince says- he’s got two sides and they’re both friends. There are plenty of roars from the crowd as Prince performs this one in typical seduction mode. It sounds like the ladies in the crowd are hanging on every word as there is screams and yells after almost every suggestive line. Maceo gets a nice lead break, and he shows of another side of his playing- completely different from the previous song. He is definitely a master, and I love listening to this one too. Maceo finishes up and we return to the seductive sounds of Prince. It sounds like he could deliver this easily all night, but he winds it up after just another minute.

Normally I would readily dismiss Cream, but this one is a more up-tempo, and the drums and horns are more to the fore. It strengthens the song a lot, and I find I enjoy it much more than I have in years. Prince reminds the audience midsong that he wrote this one looking in the mirror, and the crowd gives an approving cheer. The guitar break is worth mentioning, the sound is not as weak and thin as the album version, and although it’s very short, it is an improvement in my opinion. I also find the horns add a lot to it, they aren’t playing anything extra, but they do fatten out the sound.

We segue easily into a rock number next as U Got The Look gets an outing. With only Prince playing guitar it’s a less rocky than usual, but he makes it for it with some extra oomph in his vocals and the drummer does give it plenty too. His lead break is good, but does sit low in the mix. We can perhaps blame limitations in the recording for this, but his guitar sound does sound a little lost amongst the other instruments. It’s a shame, as it I have often felt that this song hinges on the sound of his guitar breaks in it, and here it comes across as much lighter.

I don’t think I have ever heard a version of Shhh that I didn’t like. This one is no exception. Again I am somewhat limited by the quality of the recording, but Prince sounds just as good as ever. This song dates from my favorite era of Prince, and I only wish that more songs from this period were played live now. Of course he delivers the verses with plenty of passion, but its the guitar playing where the emotion really comes through on this song. His guitar says what his voice can’t, and sitting here today listening to it I find it brings all sort of emotions out of me. A fine performance of one of his greatest songs, this one is only let down by it being an audience recording. The song ends with a half a minute of furious guitar work, and I am already reaching for the repeat button.

Prince 21 nights 2007 3

Musicology sounds like a song that was purpose written for shows like this. A throw back nostalgic song in both sound and lyrical content, it’s very much tailored for audiences like this, as well as serving as an introduction to the band. It’s a party song, and you can hear the audience responding to it, it very much lightens the mood. Again, Maceo is very much a highlight in this for me, his playing is exceptional. The other band members all play well too, no slight against any of them, but Maceo is the one I enjoy most. There is some chanting of ‘Funky London’ and the audience does seem to get behind this a lot. It does perhaps go on a little long for my liking, but I always prefer that rather than having songs cut short.

Prince takes the time to talk to the crowd between songs at this point. It’s a nice couple of minutes, he asks about his stage, how’s the band, and then mentions his excitement of playing in London again.

The up-tempo beat of I Feel For You has me back on board. Prince doesn’t have to try too hard with this one, it has a nice inner energy to it, and pushes all the nostalgia buttons to me. This isn’t the greatest version I have heard, Shelby (love her) is just a little too strong on it, and although she doesn’t drown out Prince I definitely hear her voice more than his. If anything, it feels there is a little too much on this one. It doesn’t have the cleanness that I like about it. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not as great as it could have been.

Staying in the era, Prince calls for Controversy next. It’s got that great pounding beat, and what I like most about it, is the beat doesn’t overwhelm everything, as per other recent versions I have heard. The bass is nice and prominent, and it’s a great throw back to his early years. The horns are another nice touch and give it some color. The only problem I have with it is when Prince calls for people to jump up before the main groove. It seems to derail the song somewhat. But more than making up for that is another appearance of Maceo. His sax is sharp sounding against the neat, and it works very well. Later in the song the rest of the horn section join for a horn break, but it doesn’t seem to work quite as well. But I do like that they played around with it. And there is a nice break when just the trombone plays that I enjoy.

Prince 21 nights 2007 2

Things slow down as Prince leaves the stage and Renato Neto and Mike Phillips play an instrumental What A Wonderful World. I have been effusive in my praise of the horns so far on this recording, but here is a bridge too far for me. With Prince not on the song at all I find my attention quickly waning. Although it all sounds pretty, I find this one bland and am bored with it before we even get half way.

Somewhere Here On Earth, although sounding good, barely gets my pulse going again. I am not going to dismiss it though, Princes vocal deliver on it is excellent. I would like to hear more ballads in this vein as he ages. It’s got an easy listening sound to it, with a nice gentle horn playing in background. Prince has a nice croon in his delivery and I could well imagine him singing like this in a piano bar well into old age. And that is the reason I don’t like it. The quality is excellent, there is no denying that, but it’s too safe, too middle of the road for my tastes. It’s a nice deviation in the gig, but in the end I find it to be a side dish, rather than the main course.

Lolita has questionable lyrics, but an upbeat pop sound. I have seen a variety of opinions on this song, it’s very much a song you either love or hate. I enjoyed it on record, but here it doesn’t match that. Prince’s vocals are easily heard, but not easily understood. I can’t make out the words, and this time I’m not sure I can blame the recording. The O2 does have some sound issues, and I am putting it down to this. The song is OK, but it does finish before I can form a strong opinion one way or another.

Prince then engages the audience with “I got more hits than Madonna got kids” I have heard it plenty since then, but at the time it was still quaint and funny. I am expecting him to then play one of these hits he is alluding to, but instead we get a reprise of the last chorus of Lolita.

Prince 21 nights 2007 4

We are back on track when steamy groove of Black Sweat begins. It doesn’t have the dark sound of the album, but it still sounds good to my ears. It could have been much funkier and heavier, but the crowd seems pretty happy with this arrangement, and so am I. The only things that count against it is Prince shouting “I got too many hits” midsong, and the fact that it barely reaches the three minute mark before it ends. After the last few songs dragging us down, it would have been good hear this one worked up more and injecting a bit more funk into the evening.

There is another interlude as Prince name checks possible songs he play next. This elicits a predictable response from the audience before the strum of Kiss brings us to the next song. Prince gives the audience a few chances to sing along with this one, and they respond with a loud call. The best part of the song is very much the guitar solo, his guitar has a nice tone to it, and as I say so many times, it sounds great. Prince does have another couple of crowd pleasing moments- the lyric change “You don’t have to watch desperate housewives, or big brother” and then lets the audience finish out the song singing themselves. It’s very very short, but it is crowd pleasing.

There is some more of Prince name checking possible songs he could do next, before he decides to go old school with If I Was Your Girlfriend. Again, to leave the recording for a moment, this was the point at the gig where ‘I lost my stuff’ so to speak. This song is a top 5 favorite for me, and to hear it live was sensational. And today as I listen back to it, I realize it’s not a great version, but every gig will be someone’s once in a life time chance to see Prince, and sometimes the quality of the song doesn’t matter, the fact it’s played is enough. Back to the recording itself, it’s a light version of the song that is played. It’s very much played as an upbeat party type song. There calls from Prince for the crowd to wave their arms side to side, and Prince addresses the audience informally several times, which takes me out of the song. There is a very nice deep organ groove under it, and that is what makes the song for me on this one. Princes asks the crowd if they are having a good time, and he gets a rousing cheer in response.

The song segues easily into Pink Cashmere. I often overlook Pink Cashmere, but it is actually a very good song. It got a little lost in everything else that was happening in Prince world at the time it came out, which is a shame, as it has the sound of a hit to my ears. The rendition here is smooth enough, and Mike Phillips plays an upbeat Sax solo on it, which does lift it up a lot. As he finishes Prince says “Careful Mike, you might get someone pregnant” His easy humor always makes me smile, and it’s a fitting comment for a nice solo. There is some nice Prince talk near the end of the song, and surprisingly it’s not corny at all. I would have enjoyed it much more, if he hadn’t of then started singing “Oh funky London” again. Mercifully it’s only for a couple of bars before the band jump back in and bring the song to a close.

I hadn’t expected to hear 7 next. It’s played very straight and doesn’t seem to deviate at all from the original recording. At this point I am reminded of why I dislike audience recording, there is a loud hand clap on the recording, and for the duration of the song I find it hard to listen beyond this. The song is played well, but like I said before there’s not too much about it that stands out.

The band then moves directly onto the next song, Come Together. There was a time when I would have loved to hear a cover such as this, but in this case it mostly disappointing. It’s obviously played with the UK audience in mind, but it’s mostly Shelby that I can hear. The first half the song I mostly concentrate on her voice, and the annoying audience hand clap. The second part of the song through picks up immensely and Prince plays the best guitar solo of the night. It’s a shame the whole song wasn’t as good as that solo, but at least the solo does redeem the rest of the song. The song finishes, predictably enough with the audience clapping and singing “Come together”

Every week I write that I don’t like Take Me with U, but that whatever particular version I am listening to at the time is great. Maybe I should just face facts, and admit that I probably do love this song. The drums aren’t the strongest on this, but the keyboards are sounding very bold. They have a nice full sound to them, especially during the chorus. Prince’s voice has a slight echo to it, and that is not due to any of his doing, it’s the sound in the venue that is at fault. The song gets the energy levels back up and this continues as the next song starts quickly after.

Guitar is one of those songs that always sounds ‘up’. It’s hard to imagine Prince playing this without a big smile on his face. The sound isn’t great during the song, his first break does sound a bit muddy and lost, but the second break is much more clear and crisp. I always think of this as being a very short and sweet song, but it does seem to go on for a while here, there is more verses than I remember! But the playing on it is good, and I always enjoy anything that showcases Prince guitar playing. The end of the song is when he goes deep into it, and there are some nice moments during his playing.

Another 360 next as Prince puts down his guitar to sing a beautiful rendition of Planet Earth. Yes it’s beautiful, but it fails to engage me emotionally. I think this song could sound better and he could do more with it. This sounds good to me, but I just can’t connect to it. There is almost too much band in it, and I do wonder if it would be better served with a stripped back arrangement. I should point at that the song does also suffer from being a less than ideal recording. Listening to this I am reminded of my teachers comments at school “Shows potential, could do better”

A longer break ensues, before we get an encore. Shelby J leads the band through a fairly robust version of Gnarls Barkly’s ‘Crazy’. It’s redundant and doesn’t add anything to show, asides from giving Prince a break and showing off Shelby’s vocals. There is no denying she’s got talent, but like many people I do tire of her extolling the crowd to ‘Put your hands up’. I do like the funky break when they start to sing ‘One Nation Under a Groove’ and I would have preferred to hear a full blown cover of that rather than Crazy. It is however of its time and place, and in 2007 that was THE song, so there is no doubt that the audience at time enjoyed it.

Prince is back in form with a fantastic Nothing Compares 2 U. Asides from letting the audience sing a line here and there, it is great to hear him perform on this. Like a lot of songs on this recording, it does have its positives and negatives. He does only sing the first verse, but then he hands it over to Mike Phillips who plays a very decent sax break. Prince returns after the sax break, and sounds much more impassioned. If anything he sounds too passionate, and the song loses some of its emotional clout. The audience is left to sing the last few lines before it fades out.

“Dearly beloved” followed by a long pause and organ into leaves me hanging for what seems an age. After a long tease Prince eventually follows up with “we are gathered here today, to get through this thing called life” and Lets Go crazy follows proper. There isn’t much left of the song, Prince skips all the verses and plays the first guitar break straight off, before encouraging the crowd with “lets go crazy, go go go”. There is another brief guitar break and some more singing along with audience. As I said before there is no verses and no choruses sung, it’s all guitar and sing along. It ends, predictable enough, after a couple of minutes with Princes guitar howling ending. “Thank you and good night” ends the main part of the show.

Pausing for a minute, I would like to explain what happened next at the show. All the house lights came up, there was a minute or two of cheering, a few technicians appeared on stage and the crowd began streaming out of the exits. Not being in any hurry to leave, me and my friend stood for a few minutes discussing what a great time we had, and comparing highlights. After a couple more minutes there was a shout and Prince came running across the floor of the arena and hauled himself back on stage, sending the technicians diving to get out of the way. Immediately there was a rush as people clambered to get as close to the stage as possible, and people came running back into the arena. Prince picked up his guitar and began to play solo (it should be noted, this was the best moment of my life).The lights dim and the show resumes. And on that note, we return back to the recording.

With just his Horner guitar for accompaniment Prince now plays a solo version of Little Red Corvette. In a mark of just how great this song is, it more than stands up in just this simple arrangement. The lyrics and basic melody is all that is required for this one. It seems to gain something more from the simplicity of it. Although he doesn’t play the whole song, these couple of minutes are more than enough, and this song stands out as a highlight of the recording.

Prince then calls for all the lights to be turned up and again with just him and his guitar plays a very simple, yet beautiful version of Raspberry Beret. Having been there, I would have to say it was amazing how he made a 17000 seat arena feel incredibly intimate. It was more like a camp fire sing along than a rock concert. Prince only sings the first verse and a chorus before letting the crowd sing “I think I love her” and replying with “and I love you too.

Keeping in character he then plays Sometimes It Snows In April. This is one of the better versions I have heard, the audience don’t drown it out, and with only Prince it shows off his playing and vocal skills much better. He isn’t totally unaccompanied, there is a keyboard playing softly along with him, but it still does have a lovely solo sound to it. I thought it may have had that over played sound about it as many of his songs from the 1980s do, but it still sounds like its fresh and has legs. It’s a great way to finish this mini solo set.

Next the band rejoins the stage and after a couple of “Oh funky London” from Prince (enough already) we get a nice brassy rendition of Get on the Boat. With all the horns onboard, this one really jumps. This works much better live than it does on record and it’s a shame that its cut short in its prime. It sounds great here, and it really needed to be played in full.

Thankfully another one of my favorite songs follow, with A Love Bizarre. This recording is really finishing on a high, the last few songs are all top notch. Love Bizarre sounds good, with the girl’s vocals fitting in very well behind Prince, it harks back to the Shelia E days (although I don’t want to be accused of wallowing in nostalgia). The horns again shine out, they go all sorts of places I didn’t expect during their break. Unfortunately, and it is hard to be critical about something so small, Prince does begin to chant “oh funky London” again, and it’s at this point I inwardly groan. But it’s only briefly and does lead us into the next song.

I didn’t expect to hear the music of Sexy Dancer again, but here it is in all its glory. On the downside, the lyrics are dispensed with, and instead Shelby sings Le Freak over the top of it. It’s not such a big deal, they are a good fit and the song is enjoyable enough. There is not enough Prince there for my liking, I can only hear Shelby, and then a brief but enthusiastic sax solo. The song has the vibe of a party or disco, and when Prince is heard again it is to get the crowd chanting “oh funky London”. Insert sad face here. And its on this note the show ends proper.

There is plenty of interesting moments in this show. Opening with Purple rain, the mini solo encore, and of course it is the first of his 21 nights and Prince is obviously trying to make a splash in London. Asides from being there, this show was enjoyable for me to go back and listen to. I was amazed how many of the moments and songs I had forgotten already (I had no idea he played Black Sweat, I don’t remember it at all). A pleasant recording, it was a good listen asides from nostalgia value.

Thanks for reading
Hamish

 

San Jose

Today’s recording is a dark horse to me. San Jose in December 2000 is a recording that I vaguely remembered was very good and enjoyable, but I couldn’t remember too much more about it. I gave it a fresh listen, and I was correct- it was a good fun concert. Sure, it’s very much a greatest hits show, but it’s all played with a lot of energy and pop that gave it a freshness that I found very enjoyable. Not too many surprises to be found here, but I had a fun couple of hours listening to it.

8th December, 2000, San Jose

The slowed down voice intro of 1999 is the first thing we hear on this recording, then the Prince squeal of ‘No’ from Lovesexy. It’s only an intro tape, but there is plenty of crowd noise, and it’s very clear that they are all in right from the start. The tape has snippets of My Name Is Prince and Erotic city, before a voice begins a countdown from 10, 9, 8, 7……

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There is a real sense of anticipation from the crowd, and even listening to the recording I feel the excitement growing in me too. The countdown reaches one and there is a long fast drum roll that takes me right back. It’s loud and fast and it reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on. Prince can be heard saying ‘San Jose’ and the band rock into Uptown. Now I know why that drum roll sounded so familiar! I would have never guessed that the show would open with this song, but it’s just fabulous, and like I say, I am immediately transported back to the early days. The band doesn’t over play it, and it’s still got a nice down to earth feel to it. Sometimes songs like this get played with a modern sheen on them, but this one here sounds just like it did back in the day. We are off to a great start.

There is no pause between songs, and we are still rooted in the early era as the band play Controversy. Like the previous song, it’s played in a more original configuration, and there is some nice guitar funking me up. The band at this stage is small, and there is no large horn section or extra players. All in all, it’s a great sound.

The song ends with the break down straight out of the Parade era. In my head I can almost picture Prince doing the cigarette lighting routine as the song winds down. I hold my breath for a second and cross my fingers as I hope what I think is about to happen happens.

The band seamlessly bangs into Mutiny and I feel like I have just stepped out of a time machine into 1986. It’s just as good as I had hoped. There is a sharpness and freshness to it, and it does sound just like the Parade era version that I have listened to 100’s of times. I can barely write now as I listen to it, everything is as it should be. Not all modern versions of Mutiny sound this good, and this is one to cherish. It’s played to the hilt, and the crowd is going bananas as the sax solo is played- I only wish I could see it. There is then a longish keyboard break, which I want to believe is Prince, but that’s wishful thinking and speculation on my part. I am not normally one to dwell on the past, but these first three songs have me feeling like I am 16 again.

Things take a smoother turn as Prince asks “We got any big soul sisters in the house?”, and then the smooth flow of Cream begins. Not being a fan of this song, it’s something I might usually skip over. But I listen to it here, and find myself enjoying it. The song is definitely a great pop song, and the guitar solo played on this recording has just enough rawness to it that it holds my attention on the song. I won’t be under estimating this song again for a while.

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Little Red Corvette is another exercise in nostalgia as it has a very nice long keyboard intro over the steady beat, while there is some very nice vocals overtop. I don’t know who is singing, but the sound of them over top gives a nice emotional feel to it, and the crowd get in on it with some hand clapping. Prince comes in, and it sounds like nothing has changed in 20 years. As a nostalgia moment it is pushing all my buttons. The guitar break is played on the keyboard, and even though it’s only a small change, it keeps me interested. Disappointingly what we get here is the abridged version and it ends right after this.

The crowd is in strong voice as the band play I Wanna Be Your Lover. Obviously there is many people there reliving their youth as I am now. The crowd is behind every line and there is an exciting feel to the whole thing. Prince only sings the first verse and one chorus, but it’s all a lot of fun.

Sexy Dancer begins without break. There is some very nice clean keyboard at the beginning of it, and that has me listening closely. The song is only played for a minute, which is a shame as it was sounding like it could have really been something. But I can’t complain too much as Housequake is the next song up.

This arrangement of Housequake is great. It retains the beat that I enjoy so much, and when Prince says “And the saxophone is fault, Najee!” it sounds fantastic. Najee plays a very nice break, its different but it sounds good. Prince also calls for Mr Hayes to get funky, and he gives us an organ solo that grooves along nicely. It’s funky and again adds a little more to the song. Prince also calls out the drummer, and there is a drum break that isn’t too over the top, and doesn’t derail the song as drum solos sometimes do. The song is played right out and there is plenty more of drum and organ throughout.

The tone is lowered and things take a darker turn as Dorothy Parker gets an airing. It begins with Prince talking to the crowd about change, but the song is what gets my attention here. It’s suitable subdued, and the downbeat sound of it all is as it should be. I could listen to this song all day, and the version here is just as I like. There is an especially nice piano break midway. Prince calls something sounding like “my piano” so I guess it’s his playing that I am enjoying listening to. It takes the song in a different direction, but that’s Ok by me. There is then a nice flute solo (At least I think it’s a flute) by Najee, and it’s the type of difference I enjoy on live performances. I give this one another thumbs up.

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There is finally a small pause in the action, and a proper break between songs. This is broken when the chugging guitar of Prince takes us back into rock mode. It’s very much a classic rock sound, just Prince and his guitar chewing it up for a couple of minutes. He mixes some nice high lead guitar with some more heavy rhythm, before the pounding beat of I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man begins. Initially it is just the beat, while Prince bangs out more guitar histrionics. Nothing is rushed and Prince gives it plenty before counting in the band with “one, two, three, four!” The band enters with a crash and the song begins as we have always known it. The backing vocals aren’t as strong as I would like, but who am I to criticize when Princes guitar playing is what this song is all about. He dispenses with most of the verses and heads straight to the guitar break. He barely begins before the band pulls back and we get the long extended mid section of the song. Prince plays an interesting break, plenty of long mournful playing, although to my ears it’s a little disjointed. The second half of the break is much more interesting to me, but unfortunately I won’t be adding this one to my list of favorite guitar breaks. Najee takes over with his saxophone, and my interest is piqued once again. I have never heard this take on the song before, and I want to listen to it more. After this I will be adding this to my playlist of songs I need to hear more of. Najee definitely gets a handclap from me for adding a lot of color to this song.

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I wonder what we will get next as we have the sound of rain fall, then some soft piano and vocals from the backing singers. I don’t have to wait long as Do Me baby begins. Every week I write this blog, and every week I find myself heaping praise on this song. Today is no different; the introduction music has me salivating like Pavlov’s dog long before Prince even begins singing. He gives a couple of ‘ooowwsss” before hand, and it only serves to ramp up the excitement in the crowd, and me! When he does finally sing there is a huge release, and I can’t help but sing along. The song doesn’t get played in full, after the first verse it quickly segues into the next seduction classic.

Scandalous is a must for any slow jams mix tape, but for me it loses a little of its power with all the audience screams and shouts. Who can blame them, Prince is working them and the song the best he can. After the first minute Najee gets another break, and I can see the ground work being laid for the ONA tour of the coming years. Prince comes back and sings as Najee plays, as I said before Najee is all over this recording and sounding great.

Staying in character the next song played is Diamonds and Pearls. I want to like it, I know that this is one of his most popular songs, but it’s just not for me. It’s played straight, but it’s very truncated, and it finishes on just over a minute. As a none fan of this one I am slightly relieved, but I do feel the frustration of those who like it, these medleys can be teeth clinching sometimes.

The Beautiful Ones should be a highlight. I am pleased just to hear it. Princes voice isn’t as strong as I would have liked, but I over look that as I am happy just to hear it. Like the previous songs it’s played short, this time Prince cuts the whole middle section from it and heads straight to the end as he howls into the microphone. Always my favorite section of the song, it looses a lot of its power in this shorten form. It should have built up to this point; instead by jumping right to it, it loses all its impact.

Keeping in this vein Nothing Compares 2 U is next on the set list. I like the song, I like Princes version, but this one is a little bland. But it definitely gets a whole lot better when Najee appears and plays his sax all over it at the midpoint. Lots of these songs are being saved by his playing, and I am rapidly becoming a big fan. Prince comes back to sing some more, but the sax has stolen the show for me, and it’s all I’m listening to by now. The song ends with just a piano tinkling away.

There is a break while a steady beat continues with a touch of organ, and something that sounds like a death laser. Its doesn’t add anything to the show, but it does give us a pause to catch our breath.

Finally the opening strains of Lets Go Crazy begin and the crowd’s reaction is predictably noisy. Nothing is rushed and the opening chords are held for a long time while the tension is built up. Some epic sounding lead guitar is played by Prince, but still the song doesn’t snap into life. Then finally “dearly beloved” gets the song and its unmistakable groove started. I thought the guitar might have been louder, but thankfully it’s tucked nicely into the mix and Princes voice and other instruments easily hold their own against it. The song is cut short and degenerates into chants of “lets go” with the crowd, before the well known Prince flurry to finish. Not my favorite arrangement of the song, but its inoffensive enough. Its not a totally write off, after his finishing flourish, Prince engages with another minute of guitar work which is worth listening to.

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We may well be back in 1984 as the band play a rousing rendition of Take Me With U next. It’s a facsimile of the song that we all know so well, and nothing has changed at all. Of course it ends very quickly and moves into Raspberry Beret. Prince does his spoken intro at this point about “Who hasn’t seen me before? and who has seen me before?” It’s quaint, and even though I have heard it plenty of time it still has a certain charm about it. The audience does most of the singing on it before the chorus and Princes vocals return. Its wound up here, and I’m about to get another surprise.

Darling Nikki is the next song, I don’t know when he stopped playing this one, but I would guess that this would have been one of the last times it was played in full live. It’s an interesting version; there is a nice sharp drum roll all through it that almost sounds militaristic. Prince starts to sing as dainty keyboard plays along. It’s back to familiar territory after this as the heavier keyboard rolls come after the verse. I am further surprised to hear it played right out in full, including the backwards singing at the end. Prince, you are so full of surprises sometimes!

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We stay in the Purple Rain era with When Doves Cry following immediately after. Normally I am not a greatest hits concert sort of guy, but I am loving this one. Again Najee is all over this song, and by now I am full on board. He is awesome, and I love this version. It doesn’t surpass the original, but it is highly recommended. It gets even better as Najee plays straight into Fathers song, and Computer Blue. You have to hear this, it’s a perfect fit, and the newness of it all is so refreshing.

There is then some nice keys while Najee plays some slow soft music over top. Like I said before, the template for the ONA tour is all over this, moments like this definitely has that sort of sound and vibe. If you ignore the greatest hits and just concentrate on moments like this you can see where he is heading.

Prince then sings a fantastic version of I would Die 4 U/ I’m a Star. Just over the same soft music he sings the lyrics slowly and deeply. He only sings a couple lines of each, but for that minute and a half I am transfixed. I am disappointed he doesn’t take it all the way, but this is still a great moment for me.

Najee takes the lead for God, and to be honest I am running out of words to describe how much I am loving him at this gig. Prince takes the time to introduce the band. He introduces each member as you would expect, but takes an extra moment to introduce Najee, and get him plenty of praise. I whole heartedly agree with Prince, and I am happy to find he is in agreement with me about Najees contribution. Obviously at this point Njaee gets another minute to play all over God, and its only fitting. It’s not outstanding, but it is entirely appropriate. As with the rest of the show I find it very enjoyable.

Purple Rain goes off in a direction I don’t expect, and I enjoy it even more for that. After the opening chords Prince takes us on a soft ride with some great lead guitar. Nothing over the top, just a couple of minutes of fine lead guitar. It’s easily the best part of the recording for me, and if I hadn’t have heard Purple Rain a 1000 times before I would probably come back to this one more. The rest of the song passes on much as you might expect, the guitar solo at the end, although enjoyable, doesn’t offer any surprises. I am pleased to hear Prince singing all the verses rather than skipping straight to the guitar break as he sometimes does, but having heard this at almost every concert there isn’t too much more that can be said about it. Prince does take a few minutes at the end of the song to preach the bible to the crowd, but that doesn’t detract from the recording at all, although it does probably go a minute more than it should do.

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The encore begins with the beat of Come On. It sounds a little flat and lifeless, despite the band doing their best to encourage the crowd to party. It does get better as it goes along, but it feels a little forced by the crowd. I do enjoy the song, and I would like to hear it live more often. Unfortunately this isn’t the best version I have heard. Najee sounds good on it, but the rest of the song it sounds like Prince is trying too hard to get the crowd partying.

The party continues into the next song as Prince encourages Geneva to bring up some people for dancing. As a listening at home experience it’s not great, but I can fully appreciate that at the gig it would have been pretty cool. There is a bit of sampling, and samples from several Prince songs can be heard before he breaks into Kiss. Although not great, it does have a nice groove running underneath it. As I have written many times, this is one song that never seems to sound great in the live setting to me. This one is likable, but still doesn’t quite get there for me. The crowd sound like they are having a lot of fun though, and several of them can be heard singing on the microphone during the song. Some are better than others, but no one is terrible which is surprising!

Gett Off ends the show with a slowed down nice deep groove. It’s another highlight for me, just the groove itself is enough for me. There is some rhythm guitar on top with Najee and his flute and the overall sound is funky with a capital F. Prince does deliver a heavy deep guitar break which shows off something completely different from the start of Purple Rain, yet I rate it just as highly. It’s a great way to close out the show, and as Princes ends his guitar break and says goodbye Najee plays us out. A fitting end to the show.

The setlist for this show didn’t have me feeling overly enthusiastic. But the playing on it and the sound that Najee brings to the table more than compensated for the set list. The hits had a fresh sound, and were played with an energy that must have been hard to muster for songs that have been played so much. I remembered that this one was good, but I had forgotten how good it was and why it was so enjoyable. A solid fun show that left me feeling very satisfied.

Thanks for reading
Hamish